Saturday, April 20

Police who handcuffed Bianca Williams to face gross misconduct charge | Police

Police officers involved in the stop, search and handcuffing of champion athlete Bianca Williams, while her baby was in her car, are to face disciplinary charges that could see them sacked, the Guardian has learned.

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct of the July 2020 stop of Williams and his partner, Ricardo dos Santos, has concluded there is a case to answer for gross misconduct against five Metropolitan police officers.

It is understood that a disciplinary panel will also consider whether racial discrimination played any part in the actions of some of the officers, multiple sources confirm.

The officers are understood to deny wrongdoing, insist their actions were correct and will contest the charges. They also enjoy support among their fellow officers and Met leaders.

Gross misconduct is the highest level of disciplinary charge a police officer can face. A sixth Met officer has been recommended by the IOPC to face a misconduct charge.

After a row erupted about the stop, the then Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, claimed that “any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car.”

The IOPC went to the Met with its recommendations that five officers should face gross misconduct charges last month, following its investigation.

The Met is understood to have been unhappy with the recommendations.

The formal announcement on the discipline charges is expected this week, and may be as early as Wednesday.

Williams and Dos Santos were arrested at 1.20pm on 4 July 2020 in Maida Vale, north-west London, by officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group.

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Their driving is alleged to have aroused suspicion, with police claiming the Mercedes was being driven erratically. The couple say they were racially profiled. They were searched on suspicion of having drugs and weapons, with none found, while their three-month-old son was in the back seat. Both adults were handcuffed.

Officers are claimed to have said they believed they could smell cannabis as their justification for searching the two elite athletes.

Dos Santos was driving the Mercedes and Williams was in the rear seat with their baby.

The incident lasted an hour and the couple alleged a baton was raised by officers, some of whom are alleged to have been aggressive, with Dos Santos claiming he was “dragged” out of the car.

Investigators have reviewed video from the police vehicle, body camera footage from the officers and data from both vehicles.

The IOPC’s handling of the case has attracted controversy, initially for allegedly being too lenient. It started as a misconduct investigation, then in June 2021, three officers were placed under investigation for gross misconduct, as the seriousness of the claims escalated.

In July 2021, Dos Santos told the Guardian: “The officer dragged me out of the car with a raised baton and handcuffed me, he falsely alleged that he could smell cannabis on me and recorded this as the justification for the search on the stop and search form.”

Both he and Williams felt that racism played a part in their treatment, claims which police have rejected.

The incident lasted about an hour. Nothing illegal was found and no arrests were made.

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Both athletes are trained by the former Olympic champion Linford Christie, who accused police of institutional racism.

The incident was one of a series of videos surfacing on social media that raised concerns about police tactics and policies. During this incident a distressed Williams tells officers: “My son is in the car.”

Dick said police had apologized to Williams for “the distress it has clearly caused her”, and the Met reviewed when those being stopped and searched were handcuffed.

It is also conducting a pilot monitoring the ethnicity of those who are stopped by officers while driving.

Williams, 26 at the time of the incident, is a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, and Dos Santos, 25, is a Portuguese sprinter.

The case will be heard by a disciplinary panel later this year.

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