A Black sprinter was twice stopped by the police while driving. What does his story reveal about institutional racism in the Met?
Ricardo Dos Santos: “What did I do?”
Bianca Williams: “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait he didn’t do anything! He didn’t – no, no, no, no, no, no, no. For what? For what? Why are you touching – my son! My son is in the car. I don’t want you to look after him. My son is in the car.”Bianca Williams footage of stop and search
That is the voice of Bianca Williams. She’s a Team GB Olympic sprinter, and in July of 2020 she and her partner were pulled over by the police while out driving in west London.
You might remember their story.
Interviewer: “You never think you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you are handcuffed by police and you are in a situation as traumatic as you were in.”
Bianca Williams: “Yeah, no, you don’t ever think that. You know, they were literally pulling me away from my son who is three months old. They already pulled Ricardo out of the car. I was trying to stop them from… I thought they were arresting Ricardo.”CNN Sport
Ricardo Dos Santos, Bianca’s partner and fellow athlete, was searched for drugs.
Eventually, they were both handcuffed and separated from their three-month-old son while the car was searched for weapons.
Nothing was found.
The couple have since accused the police of racial profiling. They also said the police used unnecessary and excessive force during the search.
Interviewer: “Why do you think you were stopped?”
Bianca Williams: “Because the car is all black and my partner is a Black man.”
Interviewer: “He saw he was a young Black man in an expensive car. Is that what we’re saying?”
Bianca Williams: “Yeah.”
Interviewer: “And you are wholly convinced of that?”
Bianca Williams: “Yeah, I am. I am a hundred percent.”LBC
The video of the stop and search went viral at the time, and Cressida Dick, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, offered them a personal apology.
“My senior officer has – I didn’t say this – but she said “I’m sorry” to Ms. Williams for the distress it has clearly caused her. And I say that too. So if there are lessons to be learned from it, we will learn them.”Cressida Dick, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, speaking to MPs
But she and Helen Ball, the then Assistant Police Commissioner, also insisted they had legitimate reasons for stopping the car.
“There were good grounds for the officers to stop that vehicle. And they didn’t know, uh, who was in that vehicle at the time that they stopped it.”Helen Ball, Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Earlier this year, following an investigation by the IOPC – the Independent Office for Police Conduct – it was announced that the five police officers involved in the incident will face a gross misconduct disciplinary hearing.
They will all face allegations that they breached police standards of professional behaviour and diversity standards. Four of them will also face allegations that they used excessive force.
They will be investigated by an independent panel, although the date for this has not been set.
If gross misconduct is proven, they could all be sacked.
Bianca Williams said she and Ricardo Dos Santos felt “vindicated” by the news.
That was until it happened again.
“An in-car camera films the moment when armed police told Portuguese athlete Ricardo Dos Santos to pull over. It’s happened to him many times before. Previous experiences have not been good.”ITV News
Earlier this month Ricardo Dos Santos was driving alone at night when he was pulled over. This time the police said they suspected he had been using his phone while driving.
Seven police officers attended the incident. Ricardo says one police officer even took their baton out from “frustration, ready to smash the glass”.
The Met Police, though, say the search was legitimate.
“Now, you put the video on Twitter. Let me read the Metropolitan Police statement: We are aware of footage on social media showing part of a stop on a car. At about 4am on Sunday 14th August armed officers were on routine patrol in a marked police vehicle. They saw a car travelling eastbound on the A40 west way and were concerned the driver may be using a mobile phone at the wheel. The officers clearly indicated for the car to pull over, but it failed to do so, and they called for further assistance. The driver stopped about five minutes later in Orsett Terrace, W2, where the officers spoke to him about why they wanted to stop the vehicle.”BBC News
But Ricardo says the police had no grounds for a search, and that the number of officers – and use of force – was excessive.
Interviewer: “Why do you suspect you’ve been stopped by the police?”
Ricardo Dos Santos: “I do think because they saw me, they saw a person of colour in the car and yeah, it was, it was let’s see what he does. And that’s why… you know, the phone use, I mean, to stop someone for a phone and call seven officers…”
Interviewer: “Well, just to be clear, your case is that the phone was down in between your legs and you were able to show them. It’s a good job that there were cameras.”Good Morning Britain, ITV
A 2020 pilot study in London found that Black people are six times more likely to be stopped by the police in their vehicles compared to White people.
And stop and search – the powers that allow the police to search you for drugs and weapons before an arrest – has been called institutionally racist since at least 1998.
A report by the IOPC earlier this year found that one specific Black teenager had been stopped and searched more than 60 times in just two years, and called for the police to do more to acknowledge institutional racism.
So far, the Met have defended the use of stop and search in the interest of public safety, and are yet to comment on structural racism in the force.
Cressida Dick, who first apologised to Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, is no longer Met Police Commissioner. She resigned earlier this year following a series of scandals.
Her successor, Sir Mark Rowley, is under pressure to address public mistrust in the police, particularly when it comes to misogyny and racism. As former Met police detective superintendent Shabnam Chaudri told Times Radio…
“I think one of his biggest wins will be if he stands out in the public domain and finally admits that the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist because that will get a lot of buy-in from communities. But with that will come how he’s actually going to move forward and redress those problems.”Shabnam Chaudri, Times Radio
So far, Sir Mark Rowley is yet to make a public statement regarding racism in the force.
But the Met has voluntarily referred Ricardo Dos Santos’s case to the police watchdog, given the public interest in the case.
As for Ricardo, he’s avoiding any more engagement with the police.
Interviewer: “I think they’ve tweeted you, haven’t they, asking to get in touch with you? Are you interested in talking to them?”
Ricardo Dos Santos: “My lawyer will deal with that.”
Interviewer: “Okay.”Good Morning Britain, ITV
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.