Boris Johnson says police must treat people with 'equality' after Dawn Butler vehicle stop

10 August 2020, 12:08

Labour MP Dawn Butler accuses Met Police of racial profiling after they stopped her driving through Hackney

By Asher McShane

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the police should treat people with "fairness and equality" after black Labour MP Dawn Butler accused Scotland Yard officers of racially profiling her in a car.

Ms Butler spoke out against 'racist trolls' bombarding her with 'conspiracy theories' after she claimed that racial profiling was behind a police decision to stop a car she was travelling in.

Scotland Yard said the stop was a result of an officer having "incorrectly entered" the car's registration plate into a computer to wrongly identify it as a vehicle registered to Yorkshire, but did not explain why the search was carried out in the first place.

Speaking during a visit to a school in east London, Mr Johnson said: "The police have made a statement saying that they made a mistake.

"They have spoken to the occupants of the car but it's obviously very, very important that the Met continue to do everything that they can - as indeed they do - to show that they are serving every part of our country, every part of our community, with fairness and equality."

She accused police of racially profiling her and said officers must "stop associating being black and driving a nice car with crime."

She described being the passenger in a BMW driven by a friend, who like her is black, in the streets of Hackney, east London, when the car was pulled over.

Ms Butler, a vocal critic of stop and search, recorded a video of the incident at around midday on Sunday, with police under heightened scrutiny over incidents of alleged racial profiling.

Dawn Butler accused police of racially profiling her
Dawn Butler accused police of racially profiling her. Picture: Sky

The MP for Brent Central, in north-west London, said: "It's obviously racial profiling.

"We know that the police is institutionally racist and what we have to do is weed that out. We have to stop seeing black with crime. We have to stop associating being black and driving a nice car with crime."

She later posted online: "Good morning twitter I see the racist trolls are going crazy with conspiracy theories.

"Someone who claims to be an ex police officer is challenging me to a debate.

"No need waste my time as I'm speaking to current police officers. Working together to make the system better."

Her footage of the stop showed an officer saying police were carrying out searches because of "gang and knife crime".

Ms Butler told the officers: "It is really quite irritating. It's like you cannot drive around and enjoy a Sunday afternoon whilst black, because you're going to be stopped by police."

Ken Marsh spoke to LBC
Ken Marsh spoke to LBC. Picture: PA

However, Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman Ken Marsh told LBC: "The incident was dealt with professionally, and there was nothing wrong with the way it was handled, people should have just moved on."

He continued: "My colleagues are all so on the back foot now and find it hard to do what they need to do for - if high up officers are making apologies left right and centre then it undermines us and our work.

"This is a conundrum, as it would be easy for my colleagues not to stop and search, but when that happened under Theresa May knife crime went up 71 per cent."

Later, Scotland Yard's statement said: "Prior to stopping the vehicle, an officer incorrectly entered the registration into a police computer which identified the car as registered to an address in Yorkshire.

"Upon stopping the vehicle and speaking with the driver, it quickly became apparent that the registration had been entered incorrectly and was registered to the driver in London.

"Once the mistake was realised the officer sought to explain this to the occupants, they were then allowed on their way."

In the video, one officer says the initial search returned a car of the same make, model and colour but registered to North Yorkshire.

Ms Butler was sceptical of this, asking for the police to share the registration they initially searched for to see how it returned such a similar car.

After the stop, former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "This is so unsurprising. When will the Metropolitan Police give up on racial profiling?"

Last month Great Britain sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos were pulled from their car and handcuffed in front of their three-month-old son.

Nothing was found in the search and the Met referred itself to the police watchdog, while the force's commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was forced to apologise for the "distress" caused.

On Sunday, Ms Butler said first the police must "be honest about the institutional racism that exists" before officers go on "intense training to understand their own bias".

She said she herself has been stopped twice while driving "for no reason whatsoever" while an MP, and her friend who was driving in the latest incident has been stopped "a number of times".