18 January 2023

Watchdog refutes interference claims in black athletes stop and search probe

18 January 2023

The police watchdog has said it “absolutely refutes” claims of political interference made by one of its former investigators over the handling of a complaint about the stop and search of two black athletes.

Footage of British sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo Dos Santos being searched in July 2020 was widely shared on social media, and Ms Williams later accused Scotland Yard of having racially profiled the couple.

Five officers are facing the sack for potential breaches of professional standards, including equality and diversity, following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.

Trisha Napier, who investigated the actions of the officers involved, told BBC Newsnight her probe was “watered down” and felt the former director general of the IOPC, Michael Lockwood, “interfered” with the case by requesting to see footage and documents.

We absolutely refute the suggestion that our decisions were influenced by anything other than the evidence during this investigation

Ms Napier told Newsnight: “I was supposed to be leading an investigation and my decisions were overturned by senior managers.

“The integrity of the organisation, in my view, was completely diminished and I could just no longer… work for them any more.”

But in a statement, the IOPC said the allegations were “without merit” and they “found no evidence of any improper practice or interference”.

Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos were stopped as they drove through Maida Vale, west London, with their baby, before being handcuffed and searched for weapons, and Mr Dos Santos for drugs. Nothing was found.

Commenting on the claims made by Ms Napier, a spokeswoman for the watchdog said in a statement: “IOPC decisions are made independently of the police, the Government and any other group or individual. They are based solely on the available evidence.

“We absolutely refute the suggestion that our decisions were influenced by anything other than the evidence during this investigation.

“In 2021, an employee raised a concern that there had been improper political or external interference brought to bear on our investigation.

“We took that allegation very seriously and the matter was investigated by a number of senior individuals.

“We concluded that these serious allegations were without merit and found no evidence of any improper practice or interference in the investigation or our decision-making.”

Responding to Ms Napier’s claims that Mr Lockwood had interfered in the case, the spokeswoman added: “The director general is responsible and accountable for all IOPC operational decisions.

“The vast majority of those decisions are delegated from the director general to our operational colleagues and as a result they may seek assurance that those decisions are appropriate in a range of ways including by reviewing the evidence themselves. This is not unusual or unique to this case.”

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