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Athlete Bianca Williams says she plans to sue after accusing police of ‘racial profiling’
6 July 2020, 09:09
A Team GB sprinter has said she plans to sue the Metropolitan Police after she and her partner were pulled over and searched by officers in what she says was a racial profiling incident.
Olympian Bianca Williams told LBC's Nick Ferrari that an apology from the force wouldn't be enough after Saturday's incident in Maida Vale, London, adding that she now planned to take a "legal route" against them.
"They took me away from my son. That hurts more than anything," she said, recalling the moment outside her home when officers pulled her and her partner Riccardo out of the family car, handcuffing them, and telling them they could smell cannabis.
"We were going home normally from training...it's the normal shortcut if there is a ridiculous amount of traffic," she said, adding that she believed they had actually been stopped because the car was "all black".
Police detain athlete amid claims of 'racial profiling'
The 26-year-old said that they had initially seen the van following them as they were on their journey home.
It later pulled alongside them as they turned into a slim road just by their house, and officers began to get out.
She said: "Riccardo said it's not safe to stop here; we have a baby in the car.
"We decided to continue driving and stop at the house...we live a stone throw away... it was not far.
"As soon as we parked up outside the house, the van came around.
"Within four seconds of police reaching the car, they were surrounding the car."
The British athlete stopped by police "for being black"
Video footage later posted online by fellow Olympian Linford Christie shows the moment the athletes were detained during the stop.
He wrote on Twitter: “Two of my athletes were stopped by the police today, both international athletes, both parents of a three month old baby who was with then and both handcuffed outside of their home.
“Can Cressida Dick or anyone please explain to me what justification the Met police officers had in assaulting the driver, taking a mother away from her baby all without one piece of PPE and then calling the sniffer dog unit to check the car over.”
Williams said she was still "very hurt" and "shaken up" by the treatment, but was particularly upset when she was handcuffed and not allowed to tend to her crying son.
"I had to say: 'Can you take the handcuffs off me so I can get my son?'
"She [the officer] spoke to me in such a way as if I was going to run away."
The athlete added that she had also "genuinely lost count" at the amount of times her partner had been pulled over.
She said: "He got stopped in May...because he looked suspicious.
"It's always: 'You look like someone we're looking for. How can you afford to drive...BMW'."
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said it had pulled the vehicle over on Saturday afternoon after it was spotted driving suspiciously and on the wrong side of the road.
It added that the vehicle "made off at speed" after failing to stop, and that the driver had initially refused to get out of the car.
On Sunday, Met Police bosses reached out again to say they want to speak to a Team GB sprinter.
In a statement on Sunday evening the Met said the Mercedes was stopped after it was seen driving suspiciously, including being on the wrong side of the road, and that the driver had sped off when asked to stop.
The Met said officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards had reviewed footage from social media and officers' bodycams and were satisfied there was no concern around the officers' conduct during the stop and search of the two athletes.
"That does not mean there isn't something to be learnt from every interaction we have with the public," Cdr Helen Harper said.
"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.
"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."
Commander Helen Harper also said she understood concerns when part of an incident is "filmed without context", adding that the footage had been reviewed and she was "satisfied that there are no misconduct issues."
But Williams insisted her family had been driving "safely" and that they were "never on the wrong side of the road".
When asked if she had ever used cannabis, she said: "Never."
"We get drug tested regularly," she added, and recalled her partner telling police on "numerous" occasions to test him, too.