Five officers from London’s Metropolitan Police will face a gross misconduct hearing over the stop and search of two black athletes in 2020, police said.
Professional sprinters Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo Dos Santos, were handcuffed after being stopped by cops and pulled out of their vehicle while their three-month-old baby was in the car.
Williams, a celebrated sprint relay gold medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 European Championships, accused police of racial profiling.
“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, 28, said in a statement released by the pair’s lawyers.
The pair was searched for weapons and drugs by officers during the July 4, 2020 traffic stop, but nothing was found and no arrests were made.
Four officers and an acting sergeant now face gross misconduct charges.
The officers are accused of breaching professional standards relating to duties and responsibilities, use of force, equality and diversity, order and instructions and authority, respect and courtesy, and honesty and integrity, police said.
Footage of the stop and search sparked mass fury on social media, triggering concerns over how London’s police force treats black people.
Dos Santos, 27, said, “This has been a long journey, 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.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said the police officers involved in the incident will face a panel that “will decide whether allegations that they breached professional standards are proven.”
The police force has apologized for the distress caused to the two athletes. It said the pair were stopped and searched because they believed the car was “being driven in a manner that raised suspicion.”
After the stop, the then-Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, publicly backed her officers, claiming that “any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car.”
Williams said she felt “particularly vindicated” by the IOPC’s decision to “discredit and undermine our complaints, and to trivialize the experiences of black people in the UK and how we are policed,” she tweeted at the time.
The incident came hot on the heels of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, which birthed the Black Lives Matter movement across the globe.