Five police officers could face the sack over the stop and search of two athletes who were driving through London with their baby.
Watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said on Wednesday that an acting police sergeant and four police constables will all face a gross misconduct disciplinary hearing over the incident involving British sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo Dos Santos.
Footage of the search on July 4 2020, during which the couple were handcuffed, was widely shared on social media, and later Ms Williams accused the police of having racially profiled the pair.
After the search, details of the couple’s three-month-old baby were also stored on a police database called Merlin, used to record information on children who become known to the authorities.
Five officers will face a gross misconduct hearing for their alleged actions following the stop and search of Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos in July 2020 .— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) April 27, 2022
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The IOPC said that a police unit had followed the couple as they drove through Maida Vale, west London, before stopping them and searching the couple for weapons, and Mr Dos Santos for drugs. Nothing was found.
Regional director Sal Naseem said: “All five officers – an acting police sergeant and four police constables – will face allegations they breached police standards of professional behaviour for duties and responsibilities and for equality and diversity.
“Four of them also face allegations that they breached the standards for use of force and for authority, respect and courtesy.
“Three of the five – all police constables – will face allegations that they breached the standards for honesty and integrity and one will face an allegation they breached the police standards of professional behaviour for orders and instructions.
“These matters were assessed as gross misconduct so it will be for the disciplinary panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair to determine whether or not the allegations are proven.”
If gross misconduct is proven, the officers could face the sack.
A sixth officer will attend a misconduct meeting with force bosses over alleged breaches of the standards for authority, respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities and for use of force, assessed as misconduct.
This has been a long journey, and one which has not been easy.Ricardo dos Santos
In a statement issued through the couple’s lawyers, Bianca Williams said: “I welcome this decision and hope this opens the door for the Met to start being more honest and reflective about the culture of racism which is undoubtedly still a reality within the organisation.
“A clear focus on the racism problem within the Met by the IOPC is long overdue.”
Ricardo Dos Santos said: “This has been a long journey, and one which has not been easy.
“We have been engaged in this process for nearly two years, and who knows how much longer we will now have to wait for the conclusion of the misconduct proceedings?
“This sheds a light on how difficult it is to ensure the police are held responsible for their failings.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid, from the Met’s Directorate of Professionalism, apologised for the distress caused to the couple.
He said: “I acknowledge the IOPC’s direction in this case. We have co-operated fully with the IOPC’s investigation and, in accordance with their direction, are now arranging for an independently-led misconduct hearing to take place.
“I am sorry for the distress that this incident clearly caused Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos.”
Criticism was also levelled at the-then deputy commissioner Sir Stephen House and former commissioner Dame Cressida Dick for comments they made publicly defending the officers involved.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “This incident was understandably deeply distressing for Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, and I, like many Londoners, was disturbed by the footage of what happened.
“I welcome the independent investigation by the IOPC and its findings. It is important there is no further delay and these officers now face gross misconduct proceedings as soon as possible.
“This case is yet another example of why it is vital that the next Commissioner has a more effective plan to tackle the serious cultural issues within the Met Police and to regain the trust of Londoners.”