A Team GB sprinter is considering legal action against the Metropolitan Police after accusing officers of racially profiling her and her partner in a stop and search.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, a Portuguese 400m sprinter, were stopped in west London on Saturday.
Williams, whose three-month-old son was in the car during the incident, called it an “awful experience” and believes the couple were targeted because they are Black and drive a Mercedes.
“They (the officers) said there’s a lot of youth violence and stabbings in the area and that the car looked very suspicious,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“They see a Black male driving a nice car, an all-black car, and they assume that he was involved in some sort of gang, drug, violence problem.”
Scotland Yard said a 25-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman were searched when a car was stopped in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, on Saturday afternoon.
Both were searched, along with the vehicle, but nothing was found. Police said officers were patrolling the area in response to an increase in violence involving weapons.
The force said the vehicle was stopped after it was seen driving suspiciously, including on the wrong side of the road, and that the driver had sped off when asked to stop.
But this account was rejected by Williams, who said the car was “never” on the wrong side of the road.
“That is false, we were never on the wrong side of the road. We were driving down through single-width roads,” she told the programme.
“We only found out about us driving on the wrong side of the road once they tweeted on Saturday afternoon.
“This isn’t the first or fourth or fifth time – it must be about the 10th [time her partner has been stopped by police], it’s getting ridiculous.”
She said race was “100%” the reason he gets stopped, adding: “It’s just horrible, it’s an outrageous assumption for them to make.
“We are planning on taking it down the legal route. I feel very hurt by their actions, and to witness my partner being taken away and for me to be taken away from my son, my heart hurts.
“It’s an awful experience.”
Williams also told Sky News that Met commissioner Cressida Dick “does need to think about her position to be honest”.
Footage of the incident was shared widely on Twitter after being posted by former Olympic medallist Linford Christie, who questioned why the vehicle had been stopped.
The clip appeared to show two people – a man and a woman – being pulled out of a car in a London street.
The woman says: “He didn’t do anything” and officers can later be heard telling the woman to calm down after she worries about her son remaining in the car.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he felt “uncomfortable” about the way the officers acted and said he could see no justification for the use of handcuffs during the incident.
“I’ve looked at the video footage, the video footage only deals with what happens when the officers are at the car so I can’t say what happened before,” he told LBC radio.
“When they got to the car I didn’t really think they handled it very well at all because it was clear there was a very young child in the back and the use of handcuffs is always controversial and I couldn’t see what the justification for that was.
“I don’t know what led to the stop in the first place but what I do know is that if I was a senior officer looking at that video footage I would feel uncomfortable about the way that it was dealt with.”
Scotland Yard said officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards have reviewed footage from social media and officers’ bodycams and were satisfied there was no concern around the officers’ conduct.
Commander Helen Harper said: “I understand the concern when incidents like this happen and how they can appear when part of it is filmed without context.
“Due to the concern raised, we conducted a review of the stop. This included social media footage and body-worn camera footage of the officers at the scene.
“We are satisfied that there are no misconduct issues.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan says he has raised the incident with the Met and revealed he has commissioned an action plan for improving transparency and accountability.
He tweeted on Monday: “I take any allegation of racial profiling extremely seriously and have raised Bianca Williams’ case with the Met Police.
“It is absolutely vital that our police service retains the trust and confidence of the communities it serves so that every Londoner, regardless of background or postcode can feel safe, protected and served.
“I am committed to closely scrutinising any disproportionality and that’s why I have asked the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime and Deputy Mayor for Communities to work with police & communities to draw up an action plan for improving transparency & accountability.
“Stop and search must be intelligence-led, carried out fairly and with respect, and all officers now have body-worn video cameras to help hold them to account.”