This is a powerful story. I asked Stuart Weir to relate the Bianca Williams story on being stopped in a curious manner, this time in theUK.
As a former athletics coach, I recall telling one of my relay teams that the clear reason that the security team at a major meet was spending an inordinate amount of time following the team, was because they were the only black team at the meet.
I wanted you, kind readers, to see that racism is not just a continental phenomenon, but a global one. The only way we can change society is to, at first, admit that there is a huge problem, that must be addressed.
British athlete, Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos were on their way back from practice earlier this month with their three month-old baby in the car, when they were stopped by police. They were then pulled out of the car and handcuffed. Both athletes are coached by, Linford Christie, who posted video of the incident on social media.
Williams was second in the 2014 Commonwealth Games 200m and has won relay medals at two European and two Commonwealth Games. Dos Santos reached the final of the 2018 European 400m final, running for Portugal.
The Metropolitan police made this statement: “On Saturday 4th July, officers were patrolling in the W9 area [of London] in response to an increase in violence involving weapons.
“Officers witnessed a vehicle with blacked out windows that was driving suspiciously, including driving on the wrong side of the road. They indicated for it to stop but it failed to do so and made off at speed. The officers caught up with the vehicle when it stopped. The driver initially refused to get out of the car.
“The occupants were informed that they were being detained for the purposes of a search under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Following a search of the vehicle and those in the vehicle, nothing was found. No arrests were made and the occupants were allowed on their way.
“We are aware of a video circulating on social media showing part of the stop. Each stop is dealt with on its own merits at the discretion of the individual officers involved, taking into account various aspects including behaviour and compliance.
“Officers have to make these judgement calls regularly on a daily basis, often in difficult circumstances. They understand that their actions will be scrutinised as they go about their work and that the public have the right to hold them to account where appropriate. Officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) have reviewed both footage from social media, and the body-worn video of the officers and are satisfied that there is no concern around the officers’ conduct.”
In a further statement 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. The officers were deployed to a high violence area of London and the manner of the driving raised suspicion, it is only right that they act on it. We are open to discussing the incident with the individuals involved if they wish to do so.”
The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, [the most senior police officer in London] Cressida Dick,was questioned about the incident by the UK parliament Home Affairs Select Committee. She said: “We apologised yesterday to Ms Williams and I apologise again for the distress this stop clearly caused her. I think all of us watching could empathise with somebody who is stopped in a vehicle, who has a young child in the back, who does not probably know what exactly is going on, and is subsequently found, together with her partner, not to be carrying anything illicit.” Dame Cressida also said she has asked a senior officer to review the Met’s handcuffing practices to make sure it hasn’t become a “default”, and has set up an “oversight group” looking at the use of force. She added: “Every time we see a video that is of concern we review them, we see if there are any lessons to be learned.”
Is the Commissioner saying that there were issues of concern here while Commander Harper is saying that she is satisfied with everything?
Williams, who can clearly be heard on the video, shouting that she wanted to stay with her baby, said she has been left “incredibly hurt and shaken” and has accused the Metropolitan Police of “racial profiling”. She said, “It’s always the same thing with Ricardo. They think he’s driving a stolen vehicle, or he’s been smoking cannabis. It’s racial profiling. The way they spoke to Ricardo, like he was scum, dirt on their shoe, was shocking. It was awful to watch.”
Dos Santos said that he had been stopped by police as many as 15 times since they changed their car to a Mercedes in 2017. Our first car was a Nissan Juke and we were never stopped.”
William said that officers said that they could smell cannabis in the car, to which dos Santos replied: “what? I’m a professional athlete. Get your team to do a roadside test. I’m 25 and I’ve never had alcohol or smoked in my life”. The police declined to test him but seemed to use the allegation as justification for searching the car.
Linford Christie, 1992 Olympic 100 meter gold-medallist, accused the police of institutionalized racism. His full statement is at
A video of the incident can be seen at https://twitter.com/i/status/1279464555547168768
The incident raises a number of disturbing questions for me, a white British man.
1 Bianca Williams is about 5 foot 4. In what way was she such a threat to the 4 police officers with batons etc that they needed to handcuff her?
2 Were the couple stopped for a motoring office or because they wanted to search the car? I have been stopped for motoring offences but never been handcuffed or detained for 45 minutes nor had my car searched. Do you need 4 police officers to deal with a possible routine motoring offence?
3 What on earth does “driving suspiciously” (police report) mean? Does it mean an expensive car driven by a young black person?
4 The police report says that the car was “driving on the wrong side of the road”. However, the Times newspaper reported that the road in question is single car width. Dos Santos said that the police account of the incident did not refer to “driving on the wrong side of the road”. Dos Santos also disputes that he “made off at speed”, saying that he drove for about 20 seconds stopping in front of their home.
5 While the Commissioner said that the police had apologized, neither of the two police statements quoted included any apology. The Commissioner carefully apologized for “the distress” but again acknowledged no fault of the part of her officers. Williams said that there was no apology for the officers at the scene.
The incident saddened me greatly. It looks to me that the police used an alleged traffic offence (which they then dropped) as a pretext for searching the car. I can see no justification whatever for handcuffing a young mother who only wanted to stay with her son. Then there is the allegation of a racial element to the incident.
It looks to me that the police used an alleged traffic offence (which they then dropped) as a pretext for searching the car. I can see no justification whatever for handcuffing a young mother who only wanted to stay with her son. Then there is the allegation of a racial element to the incident.
I believe that the British police are the best in the world. But they got it wrong on this occasion. I am sad that the Metropolitan Police did not have the balls to admit that they got it wrong on this occasion and apologize properly.
This is not the UK I want to live in.