An IOPC investigation concluded that officers ‘acted appropriately’ during a stop and search carried out by Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers in Tottenham in May 2020.
A partial video clip of the search, which was widely shared on social media at the time, led to widespread criticism of the officers even though the clip only shared one part of the encounter.
The sharing of such partial clips of the police’s interaction with members of the public has become more common.
It often results in some elements of the mainstream media focusing solely on the partial clip, without any appreciation, understanding or recognition of events that lead up to the interaction.
Owing to the manner of his driving, officers from the MPS Territorial Support Group (TSG) stopped the complainant as he was driving in Northumberland Park Road, Tottenham N17 on 23 May 2020, under the Road Traffic Act.
Having smelt cannabis coming from the vehicle, officers searched the man’s car under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The IOPC began their investigation in June 2020 after the man complained he had been stopped aggressively, that the grounds for the search were false, that the force used by the officers was unnecessary, and that they had failed to use PPE when searching him and his car.
Based on the evidence gathered by investigators, the IOPC did not uphold the first three elements of the man’s complaint.
The evidence clearly showed that the man failed to comply with the officers’ verbal demands and that he refused to show his hands, which led to him being handcuffed in his car.
The partial clip shared on social media did not show the male’s blatant refusal to comply with the officer’s lawful commands.
Officers gave several reasons for conducting the search, including the manner of driving, the man’s movements inside the vehicle, and a smell of cannabis.
It was the view of the IOPC that, when the search found nothing, the officers could have more clearly explained why they felt the man’s behaviour merited a drugs search.
The IOPCs investigation found no evidence to support the man’s complaint that the officers acted aggressively towards him.
However, the IOPC did conclude that the officers should have worn Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the search.
The IOPC investigation was completed in February this year and included taking statements from the officers, reviewing social media footage, body-worn video of the incident, and MPS policies concerning stop and search and PPE use.
Investigators confirmed that officers did not wear face masks and only used gloves after they had already handled the man’s property and made physical contact with him.
The IOPC upheld this part of the complaint, and the force has undertaken to address this with the officers concerned.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said:
“We know that these types of incidents can have a detrimental impact on public confidence in policing, when there is only a partial picture available of what happened.
“Our independent investigation allowed us to establish the whole picture of what happened and did not find any evidence that this man had been treated differently because of his race, or any concerns around the conduct of the officers, although we did find they should have used PPE and could have more clearly explained the reasons for the stop and search.”
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