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Black athlete arrested: five police officers risk action

Five London police officers face disciplinary action after the July 2020 arrest of British athlete Bianca Williams, Scotland Yard announced on Wednesday.

A vast investigation into racial discrimination has been carried out within the English police.

The 28-year-old black British sprinter and her Portuguese partner Ricardo Dos Santos, 27, were arrested on July 4, 2020 in west London while driving with their three-month-old baby. The couple had been handcuffed and searched by the police, who found nothing.

Videos of the arrest shared on social networks caused a scandal. The athlete had accused the police of having targeted her because of her skin color.

The five police officers will be summoned before a disciplinary commission, the Independent Office on Police Behavior (IOPC), the body responsible for complaints against the police, said on Wednesday. A London police official, Bas Javid, said he “recognizes the decision of the IOPC in this matter” and said he was “sorry for the distress the incident has caused to Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos”.

In a statement, the couple’s lawyers welcomed the decision. They also called on the London police to reflect ‘on the culture of racism which is still a reality within the organisation’.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter

The IOPC had launched in July 2020 a vast investigation into the extent of racial discrimination within the British police, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As part of the anti-racist demonstrations triggered around the world by the death of George Floyd, a black American asphyxiated by a white police officer in the United States, several cases of possible police violence against minorities had provoked outrage in the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday, the mayor of the British capital ‘welcomed the IOPC investigation and its conclusions. It is important (…) that these police officers be prosecuted as soon as possible’. He said the case illustrates the ‘vital need for the new Chief Constable of London to have a more effective plan to tackle the serious problems within the London police’.

The former head of Scotland Yard, Cressida Dick, announced her resignation in February in the wake of a damning report from the IOPC pointing to racist, misogynistic and discriminatory behavior within her teams.

/ATS

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