British sprinter Bianca Williams says she has “never had to experience anything like this” after being stopped by police in her car in London.
Williams, 26, and her partner Ricardo dos Santos have accused the Metropolitan Police of racial profiling and acting violently towards them.
“It’s a really sad world that we live in and if it’s not one black man, it’s another black man,” a tearful Williams said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“My heart just hurts.”
“It was just weird that we were treated that way and what hurt me the most was me being dragged away from my son.”
Williams and and Portuguese 400m record holder Dos Santos, 25, fear they were targeted because they are black and drive a Mercedes.
Police say the vehicle had been on the wrong side of the road and the driver sped off when asked to stop.
Officers were patrolling in the Maida Vale area because of an increase in youth violence.
A police statement said: “Officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards have reviewed both footage from social media, and the body-worn video of the officers, and are satisfied that there is no concern around the officers’ conduct.”
However, Williams, who says he has been left “really shaken” by the incident, insists “at no point did we drive on the wrong side of the road or speed off”.
“We didn’t want to get out of the car because of how their behaviour was, they had batons ready and it is very scary, you worry about your life when the police are acting that way, we had a baby in the car,” the European and Commonwealth relay gold medallist said.
“My partner got dragged out of the car, they handcuffed him straight away and pinned him up against the wall… I didn’t want to be separated from my three-month-old son and they then put me in handcuffs straight away too.
“It’s just nasty and the police were talking to him [partner Ricardo] as if he was scum, as if his life didn’t matter.
“The police always say to him you look like someone we’re looking for, how can you afford a £60,000 car, you look very suspicious. “
They say police handcuffed them while their three-month-old son was on board and carried out a search that lasted 45 minutes.
Dos Santos, who plans to meet lawyers on Monday, said that he had been stopped by police as many as 15 times since they changed their car to a Mercedes in November 2017.
Video of the incident showed them protesting that they had done nothing wrong and Williams screaming “my son is in the car”.
On Monday, British Athletics released a statement about the incident, saying: “We are aware of the hugely distressing footage of Bianca Williams and her partner being handcuffed by the police outside their home yesterday. Our staff have been in touch with her and will be on hand for any support required.”
The police statement said that at about 13:25 BST on Saturday officers from the Territorial Support Group “witnessed a vehicle with blacked-out windows that was driving suspiciously, including driving on the wrong side of the road”.
The statement added: “They indicated for it to stop but it failed to do so and made off at speed. The officers caught up with the vehicle when it stopped on Lanhill Road. The driver initially refused to get out of the car.”
After searching Williams and Dos Santos, and the vehicle, nothing was found and no arrests were made.
The incident was first raised on social media by their coach, 1992 Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie, who accused the police of abusing their power and institutionalised racism.
Williams, the fifth-fastest British woman in history over 200m, and Dos Santos said that a written report given to them by police did not mention driving on the wrong side of the road, and that where they stopped is a single car-width road.
When can the police stop and search you?
In most cases in England and Wales, police can only stop and search you (or your vehicle) if they have “reasonable grounds” that you might be carrying:
- Illegal drugs
- Stolen property
- A Weapon
- Something that could be used to carry out a crime, like a crowbar
Reasonable grounds for stopping someone cannot be based on race or whether the person is a known criminal.
Instead, officers must base it on current intelligence (has there been a recent crime in the area, for example) and make balanced judgement calls on the behaviour of the suspect.
In this case, the Metropolitan Police says there had been an increase in violent crime in the area and that the car in question was driving suspiciously. Bianca Williams denies this.
If you are stopped, you have a number of rights. This includes being told the reason why you are being stopped, what they expect to find on you and information on how to receive records of the search.