Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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IOPC upholds cyclist’s stop and search complaint against Metropolitan Police officer

A Metropolitan Police officer will undertake reflective practice after we upheld a complaint over a stop and search of a black male cyclist in London in November 2019.

We found the officer’s grounds for the search of Emmanuel Arthur in Euston – under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act - were not reasonable as the use of the smell of cannabis as a single ground is not good practice as set out in the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice on stop and search.

A second ground, later provided by the officer, was that he was concerned Mr Arthur was disagreeing with him over his cycle being over the white line at traffic lights as a way to distract him from the smell if he was in possession of cannabis.

He said he did not tell the cyclist this, however, as he did not want the encounter to escalate. No drugs were found during the search.

Our investigation concluded in May 2020 and the report was shared with Mr Arthur and with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

We examined mobile phone footage taken by another cyclist that was widely shared on social media and in the mainstream media, as well as the officer’s body worn video. 

We took a statement from three cyclists, as well as the three officers present, and examined a year of the officer’s previous stop and search records for comparator evidence.

We recommended the officer receive reflective practice, with a focus on looking at what constitutes reasonable grounds for stop and search, particularly relating to the smell of cannabis.

We did not uphold the complaint in respect of discriminatory behaviour, as a review of the officer’s previous stop and search records suggested he used the single ground of the smell of cannabis to stop and search people of all ethnicities and genders. 

This supported our view that he would benefit from reflective practice as it showed he often uses similar grounds when stopping and searching members of the public. 

We also recommended the officer would benefit from further reflective practice to consider the impact of the disproportionate use of stop and search on BAME communities, as it appeared the officer did not understand why Mr Arthur had felt racially profiled by him.

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: 

“Stopping someone on the single ground of a suspicion of the smell of cannabis is not good practice and it’s right that the officer will have to reflect on this.

“Our investigation found the officer had used the same approach on other occasions, but with people of all sexes and ethnicities. 

“However, it’s still important to acknowledge that Mr Arthur felt racially profiled. The importance of police officers recognising, and being aware of, the disproportionate impact stop and search has on black communities in particular cannot be understated.”

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