The recent dismissal of two Metropolitan Police officers over the stop and search of Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos has sparked significant debate and media attention.
An independent panel led the inquiry, finding two of the five officers involved in the search, PC Jonathan Clapham and PC Sam Franks, guilty of gross misconduct for dishonestly claiming they smelled cannabis on Dos Santos after he was stopped.
However, the panel conceded that their colleagues, on the balance of probability, could smell cannabis in the air at the time of the stop. No cannabis was found on dos Santos or Williams.
Initial reports in the mainstream media appeared to many to frame the incident as racially motivated, focusing on the athletes’ ethnicity.
This narrative was widely disseminated, creating a damaging perception of racial profiling.
However, the panel’s findings contradicted this narrative, finding no evidence of racial bias in the involved officers’ treatment of Dos Santos and Williams.
The media also heavily reported on the alleged use of excessive force.
Again, the panel’s findings offered a different perspective, justifying the officers’ actions based on their risk assessment, which starkly contrasts the media’s initial portrayal.
A critical but underreported factor in the incident was Dos Santos’ driving manner, which was one of the reasons for the stop. Before being stopped, Dos Santos drove on the wrong side of the road and travelled at an average speed of 32 MPH in a 20 MPH.
This aspect of the story received little attention in mainstream media, highlighting a tendency to focus on more sensational aspects of such incidents while neglecting other pertinent details.
In the wake of the officers’ dismissal, a notable public response emerged. A crowdfunding campaign was launched, raising significant money to support the dismissed officers.
This fundraiser garnered considerable support, reflecting a segment of public sentiment sympathetic to the officers’ situation. At the time of publishing this article, £155,000 has been raised by the public to support the officers and their families financially.
Interestingly, the crowdfunding campaign faced challenges. Some sections of the mainstream media and public figures pressured JustGiving, the platform hosting the fundraiser, calling for the campaign to be removed.
Despite this pressure, the fundraiser continued, showcasing the complexities and divided opinions surrounding this high-profile case. JustGiving was forced to repeatedly reaffirm that the JustGiving campaign did not breach its terms and conditions.
The case of Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, and the subsequent dismissal of two of the officers involved serves as a microcosm of the broader issues surrounding law enforcement, media representation, and public perception.
The media’s initial focus on racial profiling and excessive force allegations, contrasted with the panel’s findings, underscores the need for balanced reporting.
Moreover, the public’s response, especially in the form of the crowdfunding campaign, highlights the diverse perspectives and sentiments that such incidents evoke.
Key details taken from the panel’s findings:
-PC Franks and PC Clapham were found by the panel not to be credible witnesses and were untruthful when they said they could smell cannabis.
-That PC Casey did not see that the driver of the car was a black male, make any eye contact with the driver before it turned or decide to follow him into Woodfield Road.
-That footage from the police carrier confirmed that Dos Santos had applied the brakes several times during the journey down Woodfield Road, and as a result, the driving may have drawn the attention of the officers.
-That officers had received an operational briefing on the day of the stop, which focused on heightened gang tensions and made specific references to a black/dark Mercedes and that this had been taken into account in the officers’ decision-making process.
-That there was a delay of around 15 seconds before Mr Dos Santos unlocked the car and that this, along with the fact officers could not see through the tinted windows, increased their risk assessment.
-That officers’ use of handcuffs on Dos Santos was justified as they reasonably believed that by his actions, he may have been attempting to escape or was likely to be violent, taking into account the background leading to the incident. They also removed the handcuffs immediately after the search of the car was complete.
-PC Casey, Sgt Simpson and PC Bond did not breach the Standards of Professional Behaviour, and no allegations were proven, and there were no misconduct findings.
The full report can be read here.
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