The head of the Metropolitan Police has apologised to British athlete Bianca Williams for the “distress” caused by a stop and search that the sprinter slammed as racial profiling.
A video of the incident, in which Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos were hauled out of their car in a London street, went viral after Williams accused the Met of racially profiling her partner.
“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,” said Williams.
Met Police chief commissioner Dame Cressida Dick today told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “We apologised yesterday to Ms Williams and I apologise again for the distress this stop clearly caused her.”
The Met last night confirmed it had voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
In a statement, the police force said: “We have now recorded this incident as a public complaint. The decision to refer to the IOPC has been taken due to the complaint being recorded and the significant public interest in this matter and we welcome independent scrutiny of the facts.”
Police said the stop and search on the two athletes was in response to increased violence involving weapons in Maida Vale, the area of London where the incident occurred, adding that dos Santos’ vehicle was seen driving suspiciously.
Williams rejected the claims, and yesterday said she is considering legal action against the Met.
“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,” she said.
Speaking today, Dame Cressida said: “Yesterday two of my officers spoke on our behalf to Williams, and 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.”
The chief commissioner added that she has set up an “oversight group” to investigate the Met’s use of force, and will review the police force’s handcuffing practices.
She told MPs: “Every time we see a video that is of concern we review them, we see if there are any lessons learned.”
“My senior officer has said… I’m sorry to Williams for the distress, it has clearly caused her, and I say that, too.”