The Independent Office for Police Conduct has reminded the country’s 122,000 police officers that they should not stop and search someone simply because they can smell illegal cannabis on them.
The reminder comes after a Metropolitan Police officer was told that he must undertake “reflective practice” after the IOPC upheld part of a complaint that was made against him following a stop and search that was carried by out the officer back in November 2019.
The IOPC said that it found that the officer’s grounds for stopping and searching Emmanuel Arthur in Euston – under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act – were ‘not reasonable’.
The IOPC added that the use of the smell of cannabis, which is a Class B controlled drug, ‘is not good practice as set out in the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice and stop and search’.
No drugs were found on Mr Arthur during the search, and he was not arrested for any offences.
During the investigation into the officer, the IOPC took statements from three other cyclists as well as the three officers who were present during the stop and search.
The IOPC also looked at stop and searches which had been carried out by the officer during the preceding 12 months.
Part of Mr Arthur’s complaint against the officer was that he felt that he had been stopped because he is black.
The IOPC found no evidence that the officer had targetted Mr Arthur only because of the colour of his skin and as such they did not uphold that part of the complaint that was made against the officer by Mr Arthur.
The IOPC made a recommendation that the officer received “reflective practice” with a focus on “what constitutes reasonable grounds for stop and search, particulary relating to the smell of cannabis”.
The IOPC said that its review of the officer’s previous stop and searches revealed that the officer had used the single ground of the smell of cannabis to stop and search people of all ethnicities and genders.
The IOPC said that it also recommended the officer would benefit from further ‘reflective practice’ to consider the impact of what it described as the ‘disproportionate use of stop and search on BAME communities’, as it appeared the officer did not understand why Mr Arthur had felt racially profiled by him.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said:
“Stopping someone on the single ground of a suspicion of the smell of cannabis is not good practice, and it’s right that the officer will have to reflect on this.
“Our investigation found the officer had used the same approach on other occasions, but with people of all sexes and ethnicities.
“However, it’s still important to acknowledge that Mr Arthur felt racially profiled. The importance of police officers recognising, and being aware of, the disproportionate impact stop and search has on black communities in particular cannot be understated.”
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