Police who restrained Bianca Williams to face gross misconduct charge
Black athlete Bianca Williams and her partner were stopped by the police, had their vehicle searched, and restrained for up to an hour, and the officers behind the act could be tried for gross misconduct.
The police officers involved in the stop, search, and handcuffing of British sprinter Bianca Williams, while her baby was in her vehicle will be facing disciplinary charges that could see them sacked, The Guardian reported.
An investigation conducted by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) of the July 2020 stop of Williams and her partner has concluded that there was gross misconduct in the athlete's case, which could land five metropolitan police officers in court for gross misconduct charges.
A disciplinary panel will look into whether racial discrimination played any part in the actions of the officers, according to multiple sources, while the officers are denying wrongdoing and insisting that their actions were correct, and they will contest the charges. The officers are also backed by fellow officers and Met leaders.
The charge the officers are facing, gross misconduct, is the highest level of disciplinary charge a police officer can face. The IOPC has also recommended a sixth officer face a misconduct charge over the case.
Following a quarrel about Williams' stop, then-Met commissioner Cressida Dick argued that "any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car," stressing her support for the officers who restrained the athlete in front of her child and partner.
The IOPC took its recommendation of landing five officers in court for gross misconduct to the Met last month after the conclusion of its investigation, and the latter was reportedly unsatisfied with the findings of the IOPC.
Williams, along with her partner, was stopped by officers from the Met's Territorial Support Group in northwest London on July 4, 2020. The officers allegedly found that their driving was suspicious, claiming the vehicle was driven "erratically".
The couple, on the other hand, say they were racially profiled. The officers proceeded to search them on suspicion of drug and arms possession, though neither of those items was found. Both Williams and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, were handcuffed with their three-month-old child in the back seat.
The officers claimed they searched the vehicle under the pretext of allegedly being able to smell cannabis in the vehicle, though the two are renowned athletes.
The police search and restraining lasted an hour, and the couple says the officers raised a baton on them, while some of them were aggressive with Dos Santos, dragging him out of the car.
Investigators probing the incident have reviewed footage from the police vehicle and the officers' body cams. They also reviewed data from both vehicles, while the IOPC came under fire for their handling of the case, with critics saying they were too lenient with the police officers.
The probe initially started as a misconduct investigation, but in June 2021, it shifted into a gross misconduct investigation, with three officers placed under investigation for gross misconduct.
Williams and Dos Santos said they felt racism was one of the motives behind their treatment, but the police rejected these claims. The athletes' coach, former Olympic champion Linford Christie, accused the police of institutional racism.
Williams, 26 at the time of the incident, is a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, and Dos Santos, 25, is a Portuguese sprinter.