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Met Police officers sacked for gross misconduct over athlete search

Two Metropolitan Police constables have been dismissed without notice after a disciplinary panel found their actions during a "highly distressing" stop and search of two black athletes amounted to gross misconduct.

Jonathan Clapham and Sam Franks were sacked after it was found they lied about smelling cannabis when they pulled over Olympic sprinter Ricardo Dos Santos, 28, and his partner and Team GB athlete Bianca Williams, 29, on July 4 2020.

They were accused of racially profiling the couple alongside fellow Met officers Acting Police Sergeant Rachel Simpson, Pc Allan Casey and Pc Michael Bond.

The police followed the athletes as they drove to their west London home from training with their baby son, then three months old, in the back seat of their Mercedes.

The panel heard they followed Mr Dos Santos in their police carrier because of the "appalling" and "suspicious" nature of his driving and were doing their duty when they conducted the stop and search.

The couple were handcuffed and searched on suspicion of having drugs and weapons after they were pulled over outside their property, but nothing was found.

On Wednesday, the panel found Pc Clapham and Pc Franks had lied about smelling cannabis during the stop and search.

Chairwoman Chiew Yin Jones said their conduct had breached standards of professional behaviour in respect of honesty and integrity and thus amounted to gross misconduct.

The Met officers were part of a territorial support group unit who were tasked with helping to cut priority crime such as gang and knife offences.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) brought the case against the five officers and said that the detention of Mr Dos Santos and Ms Williams was "because they were black" and was "excessive, unreasonable and unjustified".

Pcs Casey and Bond and Ps Simpson were found not to have breached any standards.

Mr Dos Santos spoke after the disciplinary hearing and said "very little has changed in policing in London since the Stephen Lawrence case".

He said: "The allegations made by the police officers that I was guilty of bad driving, threatening violence and drugs were dishonest, I believe these are false allegations and were based on racist stereotypes and show very little has changed in policing in London since the Stephen Lawrence case.

"If you can't trust the police to be honest and accept when they have done bad and stereotype black people, what hope is there? I don't believe that the panel has been brave enough to review what the Casey report has already clearly stated, which is that the Met Police is institutionally racist.

"This case has taken a big toll on our family and on our careers, but it's crucial that those people who have a voice use it as those people who don't suffer without being listened to."

IOPC director Steve Noonan described the stop and search as "clearly highly distressing" and said it caused "widespread community concern about the use of stop and search powers by police".

He said after the hearing: "We are acutely aware that Bianca and Ricardo's interaction with police and their feeling of being treated less favourably by officers because of their race, is reflective of the experiences of many black people across London and throughout England and Wales.

"The Casey review highlighted widespread cultural issues and discriminatory conduct or attitudes in the Met. It's clear that the Met and policing as a whole need to work hard to restore the trust and confidence of black people. We acknowledge that the Met's Commissioner has accepted systemic and cultural failings in his force and has put plans in place to attempt to rebuild trust with Londoners."

During his evidence, Mr Dos Santos accused the officers of detaining him for "DWB, driving while black".

The hearing was told Mr Dos Santos was stopped nine times within four weeks of buying a car in 2018.

Ms Williams cried as she watched footage of Mr Dos Santos getting pulled from the driver's seat to the roadside and handcuffed.

She denied suggestions her partner could have acted differently to avoid police attention, insisting that "he can't change the colour of his skin".

All five officers gave evidence over the course of the misconduct hearing in which they denied accusations of racism.

The panel heard they followed Mr Dos Santos in their police carrier because of the "appalling" and "suspicious" nature of his driving and were doing their duty when they conducted the stop and search.

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During his evidence Pc Bond said that he used a "very, very low" level of force on Mr Dos Santos and insisted he did not know what ethnicity Mr Dos Santos was in the lead-up to the search.

Pc Clapham said during cross-examination that he and his colleagues behaved "leniently" with Mr Dos Santos during the stop and search and that, based on the sprinter's behaviour, it was "despicable" he could be seen as a "role model".

Pc Casey denied racially profiling Mr Dos Santos when the Mercedes first came into view.

The misconduct panel found it proven that Ps Simpson asked Pc Franks if he wanted to take Mr Dos Santos into the vehicle carrier to "do a bit of a ferret around his groin and his shoes" to satisfy himself that everything had been searched, but it was found not proven that she breached the standards of professional behaviour in respect of authority, respect and courtesy.

The panel found it not proven that Pc Clapham and Pc Franks breached the standards of professional behaviour in respect of equality and diversity.

The other alleged breaches of standards of professional behaviour in respect of use of force, authority respect and courtesy and duties and responsibilities were not considered as the panel found other factual allegations not proven.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: "Honesty and integrity are at the core of policing and, as the panel has concluded, there can be no place in the Met for officers who do not uphold these values.

"Mr Dos Santos and Ms Williams deserved better and I apologise to them for the distress they have suffered."

He added that the panel's findings highlight they "still have a long way to go to earn the trust of our communities, particularly our black communities, when it comes to our use of stop and search".

And Mr Ward said he remains "confident that the Met can and will learn from the experience".

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