Two top athletes were stopped, searched, detained and handcuffed in an unnecessarily “aggressive” confrontation with Metropolitan Police officers because they are black, a misconduct hearing has been told.
Sprinters Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo Dos Santos, who were returning from athletics training, believe they were racially profiled during their encounter with the officers as they drove through west London on July 4 2020 with their then-three-month-old son in the back seat.
Five Met officers could be sacked if gross misconduct is proven at a six-week disciplinary hearing in south-east London.
Acting Sergeant (A/PS) Rachel Simpson, Pc Allan Casey, Pc Jonathan Clapham, Pc Michael Bond and Pc Sam Franks deny all charges.
The officers “lied” in saying there was a smell of cannabis when they stopped the car and handcuffed the couple while the vehicle was searched on suspicion of drugs and weapons, according to the case brought on behalf of the director general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog.
Nothing was found.
Karon Monaghan KC, for the IOPC, said: “The director general will say that the detention of Mr dos Santos and Ms Williams for 45 minutes, on the road, in full view of their neighbours, was because they were black.
“But in any event, it was excessive, unreasonable and unjustified.”
Both Ms Williams, 29, a gold medallist in the 4x100m relays at the 2018 European and Commonwealth Games, and Mr Dos Santos, 28, who is a Portuguese 400m sprinter who competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, reject any suggestion they would take or be involved with cannabis as this would end their sponsorship deals.
The Met officers were part of a territorial support group unit who were tasked with helping to cut priority crime such as gang and knife offences.
Ms Monaghan said: “Pc Franks, Pc Clapham and Pc Bond detained and restrained Mr dos Santos. It is alleged that they acted aggressively and with excessive force in their detention and restraint of him, lied in stating that they smelt cannabis on him, and kept him handcuffed for up to 45 minutes when this was unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable.”
She added: “A/PS Simpson detained and restrained Ms Williams. It is alleged that she failed to consider whether it was necessary to detain and restrain her, acted aggressively and with excessive force when doing so, kept Ms Williams detained in handcuffs for 18 minutes and then detained after her handcuffs were removed when it was not necessary, proportionate or reasonable, and failed to act with the required level of respect and courtesy.
“It is alleged that the officers treated Mr dos Santos and Ms Williams in this way because they are black.”
The misconduct panel heard Mr dos Santos “considers that the police view it as suspicious for him, a young, black man, to be driving such a car (a Mercedes), thinking that he must be a drug dealer or have access to illegal finance”.
He has been stopped and searched by police since he was a teenager, the panel heard.
The five offices all face allegations that they breached police standards over equality and diversity during the stop-and-search.
A/PS Simpson and Pcs Clapham, Bond and Franks also face allegations their actions amounted to a breach of professional behaviour standards in relation to the use of force.
They are said to have failed in relation to their levels of authority, respect and courtesy as well as in their duties and responsibilities.
Pc Casey is also accused of breaching professional standards in the way he carried out his duties and responsibilities or gave orders and instructions.
It is also alleged that the honesty and integrity of Pcs Casey, Clapham, Bond and Franks breached professional behaviour standards.
The panel heard that vehicles with tinted windows are favoured by gang members, and there is statistical evidence relating to the number of reports of Mercedes A-Class cars linked to drugs or gangs, however, all of the officers deny their actions against the couple were based on discrimination.
Ms Monaghan said the IOPC’s case will say there is “institutional discrimination in the Metropolitan Police Force”.
She added the watchdog’s case relies upon statistics which show there are “disproportionate numbers of stops and searches upon black people carried out by Pc Franks, Pc Clapham, Pc Bond and A/PS Simpson”.
Ms Monaghan added: “The director-general will also rely on a number of documents and reports indicating that black people are much more likely to be stopped and searched in London more generally, and that black people are routinely treated with more suspicion and hostility by police officers and stereotyped as criminal.
The hearing at Palestra House in London was adjourned to Thursday at 11am.