Two police officers from the Metropolitan Police who alleged they detected the scent of cannabis during a stop and search of athletes Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, have been dismissed from their positions.
Dos Santos stated that he was deeply affected by the recent verdict of the tribunal, which determined that PC Jonathan Clapham, aged 31, and PC Sam Franks, aged 29, had been dishonest and committed gross misconduct. He expressed that he had experienced immense distress after being subjected to over 20 stop and searches.
He mentioned losing trust in the police and being concerned that the officers responsible for their mistreatment were motivated by institutional racism, a claim the Met denies.
The disciplinary panel acquitted three officers of gross misconduct in relation to the incident. They stated that the officers’ justification for stopping, detaining, and handcuffing the athletes for 45 minutes was unsubstantiated and did not constitute gross misconduct.
The committee also concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim that the athletes’ race influenced how they were treated. Additionally, the panel suggested that the three remaining officers involved in the case should engage in a reflective practice procedure.
It is uncommon for police officers to be fired for conducting a stop and search. On July 4, 2020, officers from the Territorial Support Group stopped Williams and Dos Santos in Maida Vale, London while they were driving. The officers suspected gang activity because they were in a Mercedes with their baby, on their way back from training.
Clapham and Franks were terminated abruptly and will be added to a list preventing them from working in law enforcement.
The chairperson of the panel, Chiew Yin Jones, stated that due to the violation of standards of honesty and integrity within a situation where coercive powers were exercised during an encounter with the public, the panel concluded that the actions of PC Clapham and PC Franks constituted gross misconduct and warranted dismissal.
Jones accused Clapham and Franks of being dishonest in their statement, causing the officers to be caught in a falsehood. There was no solid evidence to support the notion that Dos Santos had marijuana in his vehicle or on his body.
Jones confirmed that the panel acknowledged that Dos Santos, who underwent frequent drug testing, did not use or have any drugs in his possession.
After the decision was made, Dos Santos, who is 28 years old, stated to the Guardian that his act of defiance against the police resulted in him and his partner facing racist harassment on the internet, including being called the N-word. He also mentioned that Williams, his partner, was brought to tears by the situation, and it reminded him of the struggles faced by Stephen Lawrence 30 years ago.
Santos stated that after the event that occurred three years ago, he has been pulled over twice while driving and over 20 times since he was 13 years old. He shared, “When I see the police, I become tense. It has left me with trauma.”
Regarding the event that took place in July 2020 and the claim that he had a cannabis scent, Dos Santos stated, “They made this accusation based on the institutionalized racism that exists, assuming that all black individuals smoke. I have reason to believe that both of them had previously used this as a pretext for a search, even when no valid grounds existed.”
He expressed skepticism about the Met’s ability to make significant changes, as they had initially opposed the hearing. He stated, “Words are meaningless; I am doubtful that it will occur in the near future.”
The sportsman stated that he would assist individuals who have potentially been mistreated by law enforcement, by creating a charity called 4theVoiceless.
According to Jules Carey, the solicitor, it is crucial to have dedicated investigators and strong panels in order to address the issue of institutional racism within the force, particularly at the street level.
Sir Mark Rowley, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and other police leaders have convinced the government to replace independent chairs of discipline panels with police officials.
The barrister, Alisdair Williamson KC, representing Frank, stated that the conclusion of gross misconduct would have a devastating impact on the officer’s life.
Clapham, speaking through his lawyer, maintained his belief that he had detected the scent of cannabis and stated his intention to challenge the ruling. During questioning by investigators, Clapham stated, “I distinctly smelled what I believed to be the aroma of cannabis on him.”
The director general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct initiated the case.
Starting the proceedings, the IOPC’s lawyer, Karon Monaghan KC, stated: “It was clear that Williams was accompanied by her partner and son, rather than all of them being gang members.”
After the incident was made public, the police leadership showed their support for all the officers involved, causing concern among the black community. Cressida Dick, who was the commissioner of the Metropolitan police when the stop occurred, stated that a competent officer would have intervened to prevent the car from being driven in such a manner.
The officers alleged that the vehicle had run a red light, but it was later discovered that this was not the case.
The issue of stop and search has been a source of conflict between law enforcement and communities, particularly among young, Black British individuals who are unfairly singled out.
Matt Ward, a deputy assistant commissioner at the MET, apologized to the couple and emphasized the importance of honesty and integrity in policing. He acknowledged that there is no room for officers who do not uphold these values within the MET. Ward expressed regret for the distress that Mr. Dos Santos and Ms. Williams have experienced and acknowledged that they deserved better treatment.
The current results also emphasize that we still have a significant journey ahead in gaining the trust of our neighborhoods, specifically those in the black community, regarding our implementation of stop and search procedures.