The police disciplinary panel has determined that two Metropolitan officers were guilty of gross misconduct for falsely claiming to have smelled cannabis while stopping and searching athletes Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos.
The panel determined that PC Jonathan Clapham and PC Sam Franks were untruthful in claiming to have detected the scent of cannabis during their search of Dos Santos. Three additional officers were cleared of serious wrongdoing in relation to the same event.
Both Clapham and Franks were abruptly fired and will be added to a blacklist preventing them from working in law enforcement.
On July 4, 2020, Williams and Dos Santos were pulled over by authorities in Maida Vale, London, while driving back from their training session with their infant in the vehicle.
The panel determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the assertion that the athletes’ race influenced their treatment.
The chairperson of the panel, Chiew Yin Jones, stated that they acknowledged Dos Santos’ regular drug testing and confirmed that he did not consume or possess any drugs.
She stated that the actions of PC Clapham and PC Franks, which occurred during an encounter with members of the public where coercive powers were utilized, were a violation of honesty and integrity standards. As a result, the panel determined that their conduct constituted gross misconduct and warranted dismissal due to the severity of the breach.
Jones accused Clapham and Franks of being dishonest in their version of events where they claimed to have smelled marijuana and then targeted Dos Santos as the culprit. Jones argued that this caused the officers to be caught in a false narrative and that there was no solid evidence to support the suspicion that Dos Santos had cannabis in his possession, whether in his car or on his person.
The director general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct initiated the case.
The officer’s lawyer, Alisdair Williamson KC, stated that the determination of gross misconduct would greatly impact the officer’s life. According to Williamson, the officer has devoted himself to serving the public and has put himself at risk and even saved lives. Now, he is facing the potential destruction of his entire life.
Clapham, with the help of his lawyer, maintained that he had detected the scent of marijuana during the search and expressed his intention to challenge the decision. During questioning by investigators, Clapham stated, “I definitely smelled what I thought was the aroma of cannabis on him.”
At the start of the hearing, Karon Monaghan KC, representing the IOPC, stated: “The director general will assert that the officers fabricated the claim of smelling cannabis, and that this was motivated by Mr Dos Santos’ race.”
The Mercedes driven by the black athletes was believed to be similar to the cars used by gang members, adding to the officers’ suspicions.
According to Monaghan, it was clear that Williams was accompanied by her partner and son, rather than all of them being part of a gang.
Both competitors were restrained with handcuffs during the halt.
The board cleared all officers of serious wrongdoing regarding their choice to pull over the vehicle containing the athletes and their decision to use handcuffs.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London who is in charge of the Metropolitan Police, expressed that the outcome of the disciplinary hearing will likely upset and concern many citizens of London. This highlights the daunting task that the new leadership team faces in altering the culture of the Met. It is crucial that lessons are taken from this incident and I will ensure that the Met and its commissioner are held accountable for implementing necessary improvements to ensure the safety and service of all Londoners.
Cressida Dick, who was the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police during the time of the stop, supported the officers and stated that “any competent officer would have intervened to prevent the car from being driven in such a manner.”
The police stated that the vehicle had passed through a red traffic signal, but it was later discovered that this was not the case.
Part of the apprehension of Dos Santos and his significant other was captured on film.
The practice of stop and search has been a source of tension between law enforcement and communities, particularly among young black individuals in Britain who are disproportionately singled out.