Team GB sprinter might withdraw from police misconduct investigation
Team GB athlete Bianca Williams has threatened to absent herself from a police watchdog investigation into five officers who stopped and searched her and her partner this summer.
The sprinter accused the Metropolitan Police of “racially profiling” her and Portuguese athlete Ricardo Dos Santos when they pulled them over while they were travelling with their baby in July.
The matter was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after Ms Williams made a complaint on Twitter.
But following an announcement by the IOPC that the five officers involved are now subject to a misconduct investigation, the couple have said they might not participate.
They claim the parameters of the investigation set by the watchdog prove that it is not taking it seriously, and has already ruled out racism as the motivation for the stop and search.
The IOPC is conducting an investigation into whether three of the nine standards police officers must uphold were breached – namely standards of authority; standards of respect and courtesy and standards regarding use of force.
Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos expressed their anger that the officers are not being investigated for breach of standards of honesty and integrity, or standards of equality and diversity.
They claim they were stopped on the basis of racial profiling, and that one of the officers later lied by saying he believed he could smell cannabis coming from the car in an effort to justify the stop.
Ms Williams said: “For a moment, when BLM (Black Lives Matter) protesters were on the streets, and ministers, public authorities and the police were acknowledging that things had to change, we were hopeful.
“It feels now like that moment has passed and it is business as usual. It was really traumatic for my family being dragged out of the car, handcuffed and separated from our baby.
“We had hoped that our complaints would have been taken seriously by the police and the IOPC, but now we are having to make a decision about whether we should continue to participate in such a clearly flawed process.”
The couple are also angry that the investigation is just into misconduct, and not gross misconduct – meaning none of the officers are likely to face serious sanctions if the IOPC brings successful proceedings against them.
Following the IOPC’s announcement on Thursday, the Met said that if misconduct were to be proved, the officers in question could potentially be dealt with by way of extra training.
Mr Dos Santos said: “Polite racism is still racism. The IOPC have let the Met off the hook, no wonder that the Met can scoff in their press release that nothing is going to happen.
“The officer who dragged me out of the car with a raised baton and handcuffed me, who detained me under s.23 Misuse of Drugs Act and recorded falsely on my stop and search form that I smelt of cannabis is being investigated for politeness.
“How is racism ever going to be tackled in police forces if the police watchdog classify it as a ‘respect and courtesy’ issue rather than an ‘honesty and integrity’ issue?”
A spokesman for the couple said that they would be willing to participate if the IOPC amended the scope of its investigation to consider gross misconduct as well as standards of honesty and integrity and equality and diversity.
“If the IOPC did that, it would demonstrate that it intended to conduct an impartial and robust investigation and Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos would not be considering withdrawing their co-operation as they are now,” he said.
The IOPC has said the investigation will cover seven areas, including why the car was followed and stopped and whether the use of force against the couple was “lawful, necessary, reasonable and proportionate”.
It will also consider whether the search of the car was reasonable, whether Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos were treated “less favourably because of their race” and the accuracy of the officers’ accounts.
The IOPC has been approached for comment on whether the parameters of the investigation can be changed at this stage, and whether it can still go ahead without Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos’s involvement.