The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has apologised to Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams after the athlete was involved in a stop and search that ended with officers dragging her from her vehicle and handcuffing her.
Dame Cressida Dick told the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday the Met apologised to Ms Williams for causing her and her partner distress during the police stop in Maida Vale on Saturday. The couple’s three-month-old son was in the car at the time of the incident.
The commissioner said she has asked for a review into the Met’s handcuffing practices, which she insisted is not “routine”.
The incident prompted the force to voluntarily refer itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), after Ms Williams accused the Met of racial profiling.
“Yesterday two of our officers spoke on our behalf to Ms Williams and I think all of us watching could empathise with someone stopped in a vehicle who has a young child in the back, who probably does not know exactly what’s going on, and who is subsequently found together with her partner not to be found carrying any illicit goods,” Dame Cressida told MPs.
“My senior officer has said ‘I’m sorry’ to Ms Williams to the distress it has caused her. And I say that too. So if there are lessons to be learned from it, we will learn them.
“I don’t believe I do run a police service in which handcuffing is routine… Having seen a number of issues raised over the last several weeks, I have said to one of my seniors, can you please review our handcuffing practices to make sure it hasn’t in any way become a default in certain situations, because it shouldn’t do,” she added.
Ms Williams told LBC radio she believes they were stopped because the car they were driving was all black and her partner, Portuguese 400m runner Ricardo dos Santos, is a black man.
The Met said the officers who carried out the search had been patrolling the area in response to an increase in “youth violence involving weapons”. They stopped the vehicle after it was seen “travelling the wrong side of the road” and “made off at speed from the officers”.
But Ms Williams has rejected this account and said she is considering legal action against the Met.
“I feel very hurt by their actions and to witness my partner being taken way and for me to be taken away from my son, my heart hurts,” she said.
The Met said it did not identify any misconduct through its internal review process and has recorded the incident as a public complaint.
The force said in a statement: “The decision to refer to the IOPC has been taken due to the complaint being recorded and the significant public interest in this matter and we welcome independent scrutiny of the facts.
“Two reviews of the circumstances by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards have not identified misconduct for any officer involved.”