British athlete Bianca Williams has tasked the Metropolitan Police to tackle the “culture of racism” within the organization as gross misconduct proceedings have been opened against five police officers who handcuffed and searched her during a traffic stop.
According to the Independent, the July 2020 incident occurred while the gold Commonwealth medalist was traveling with her partner and their 3-month-old son. The police officers who stopped the couple handcuffed and searched Williams for weapons. Her husband was also handcuffed and searched for weapons and drugs. But the officers found nothing.
A video of the incident went viral after it was shared on social media. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) subsequently opened a misconduct investigation about three months later.
The officers facing the gross misconduct proceedings include an acting police sergeant and four constables. The officers will be brought before a disciplinary panel that will determine if they breached police standards of professional behavior for duties and responsibilities and for equality and diversity.
The department’s force management will also have a meeting with a sixth officer for alleged breaches that were determined to be misconduct. Officials will also look into whether the stop and search was racially motivated.
The investigation by the IOPC also determined one of the police officers had input details of the couple’s son in a database that keeps information on children the police have encountered, the Independent reported. The officer also provided those details to the local authority. But the IOPC said it had asked the police force to look into deleting the report and also arrange with the local authority to do the same.
“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 organization,” Williams said in a statement released through their lawyers. “A clear focus on the racism problem within the Met by the IOPC is long overdue.”
Williams’ husband, Ricardo Dos Santos, added: “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.”
Bas Javid, who is a Deputy Assistant Commissioner from the Met’s Directorate of Professionalism, also rendered an apology to the couple. “I acknowledge the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) direction in this case,” Javid said.
“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.”