British sprinter Bianca Williams says she hopes an investigation that has been launched into a controversial handcuffing incident involving herself and her partner will be “rigorous.”
Williams had been in the west London neighborhood of Maida Vale with her partner, Portuguese 400m record holder Ricardo dos Santos, and their three-month-old son when they were stopped by police.
Footage of the incident, which was posted on social media by the pair’s trainer and Olympic gold medalist Linford Christie, appears to show two people – although their faces aren’t visible – being pulled out of a car.
When asked to step outside the car by a police officer, a man is heard asking “For what?”
Once out of the car, two other officers approach the woman who tells them “he didn’t do anything.”
The woman grows increasingly distressed and shouts: “My son is in the car […] I don’t want you to look after him.” Officers tell her to “relax” and “get out of the car.”
Christie later posted a message on social media referring to the incident: “Two of my Athletes were stopped by the police today, both International athletes, both parents of a three-month-old baby who was with them & both handcuffed outside of their home […] Was it the car that was suspicious or the black family in it which led to such a violent confrontation & finally an accusation of the car smelling of weed but refusing to do a roadside drug test.”
“It’s always the same thing with Ricardo. They think he’s driving a stolen vehicle, or he’s been smoking cannabis. It’s racial profiling,” Williams told The Times of London newspaper.
“They spoke to him as if he was nothing, as if he was worthless. As if he was just – like he was scum. It was horrible,” Williams told CNN.
Williams told CNN that when approached by police, her first priority was the safety of her young son.
“He’s our son, and his safety is everything to us. We don’t know what’s gonna happen with the police, the police are so unpredictable,” she said.
“We’re raising a Black boy who’s then going to be going to school by himself and he’s going to be doing things by himself. We’re going to have to get used to it and to teach him that … he can be stopped by the police because of the color of his skin. It’s just shocking that we have to tell our son this to be honest,” Williams told CNN.
A Metropolitan police statement on Sunday said a car had been stopped in the W9 area on Saturday afternoon around 1:25pm local time after it was seen “driving suspiciously.”
“Following a search of the vehicle, the man and the woman, nothing was found. No arrests were made and the occupants were allowed on their way,” read the statement.
Dos Santos told CNN that he had been stopped 15 times since December 2017. He said that he has previously been accused by police of driving a stolen vehicle, and mistakenly profiled as someone who sold drugs and carried weapons.
Speaking about Saturday’s incident, he said: “The bad thing is it didn’t affect me as much as it should, because for me I feel like this is my new normal. Unfortunately, this is my normal. It has happened so often that it’s become second nature,” he told CNN.
Earlier this year, UK government data showed that between April 2018 and March 2019, there were four stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people in England and Wales.
Racism in the UK may attract less attention than in the US, but it is no less present. An exclusive CNN/Savanta ComRes poll found that many Black people in the UK are twice as likely as White people to say they have not been treated with respect by police.
Black people are also about twice as likely as White people to say UK police are institutionally racist – among White people, just over a quarter believe it.
On Monday, police commander Helen Harper said that officials were “keen to speak personally to the occupants of the vehicle to discuss what happened and the concerns they have.”
Harper said that The Directorate of Professional Standards had reviewed the stop, and were “content” there were no misconduct issues after reviewing the officers’ body camera footage, social media footage and details of the incident.
“However, that does not mean there isn’t something to be learnt from every interaction we have with the public. We want to listen to, and speak with, those who raise concerns, to understand more about the issues raised and what more we can do to explain police actions,” she said in a statement.
“Where we could have interacted in a better way, we need to consider what we should have done differently and take on that learning for the future.”