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UK police officers fired over black athletes’ stop and search

Bianca Williams (second right) poses with Britain's 4x100m team-mates. Photo: AFP

Two London police officers were fired Wednesday after a disciplinary hearing found them guilty of gross misconduct during the stop and search of two black professional sprinters, in the latest scandal to hit Britain’s biggest force.

The capital’s Metropolitan Police said they were dismissed after a misconduct panel determined they had lied about smelling cannabis in the car that British athlete Bianca Williams and her Portuguese sprinter partner Ricardo Dos Santos were travelling in.

The Met had already apologised to Williams, 29, a European and Commonwealth 100m gold medallist, and 400m Olympic runner dos Santos, 28, after they accused officers of racial profiling following the stop three years ago.

The force, which has faced a slew of scandals in recent years that have rocked confidence in British policing, reiterated the apology after Wednesday’s verdict.

“Honesty and integrity are at the core of policing and, as the panel has concluded, there can be no place in the Met for officers who do not uphold these values,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said in a statement.

“Mr Dos Santos and Ms Williams deserved better and I apologise to them for the distress they have suffered.”

Williams and dos Santos were handcuffed and their car was searched in July 2020 in London’s Maida Vale area but nothing was found. The athletes’ young child was in the car at the time.

The couple were not arrested and were allowed on their way.

They complained to a police watchdog, and five officers involved in the incident were accused of gross misconduct—allegations they denied.

Reforms needed

The misconduct panel did not uphold the allegations against three of the officers but concluded that Jonathan Clapham and Sam Franks had lied about smelling cannabis during the stop.

The hearing’s chairwoman said their conduct had breached standards of professional behaviour in respect of honesty and integrity, which amounted to gross misconduct.

After the incident, Williams told BBC radio: “They (the police) see a black male driving a nice car, an all-black car, and they assume that he was involved in some sort of gang, drug, violence problem.”

The Met said at the time that they were satisfied, after reviewing footage from social media and bodycam footage, that the officers acted appropriately.

The officers said they stopped the car after assessing that it was being driven in a suspicious manner. The area was being patrolled because of a surge in violence.

Last year, the police standards watchdog said that British forces disproportionately stopped and searched people from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds

The Met accepted the watchdog’s recommendations that it should amend its stop and search policies.

Meanwhile, the force — Britain’s biggest with nearly 35,000 officers — is imposing broader reforms after a review reported earlier this year that it is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

The report, written by government official Louise Casey, was commissioned after the kidnap, rape and murder two years ago of a London woman, Sarah Everard, by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.

Since then another officer, David Carrick, has also been jailed for life for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults stretching back two decades, and several other Met scandals have emerged. 

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