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Stop-and-search: MP calls for neighbourhood policing to be ‘rebuilt’

Comments come after officers forced Great Britain athlete out of her car in front of baby son in Maida Vale

10 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Karen Buck: ‘Stop-and-search is a deeply emotive subject, and for those on the receiving end of stops – especially on multiple occasions – they can be extremely upsetting and traumatising’

AN MP has called for neighbourhood police teams to be rebuilt following the botched stop-and-search of a gold medal-winning athlete.

Karen Buck, Westminster North MP, said “local knowledge and relationships” required for “constructive policing” had been eroded during a decade of austerity budget cutbacks.

She was speaking after the Metropolitan Police Service apologised to the Great Britain runner Bianca Williams after she was stopped in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, on Saturday afternoon.

Ms Williams was forced out of the car with her partner – also an athlete – and was handcuffed while her baby son watched from the back seat.

Labour MP Ms Buck told the Extra: “Stop-and-search is a deeply emotive subject, and for those on the receiving end of stops – especially on multiple occasions – they can be extremely upsetting and traumatising.

“While stop-and-search can be an important tool to help us respond to serious crime, and there have been problems with gangs and serious youth ­violence in the area, concerns over the disproportionate use against black people are long estab­lished.

“Any allegation of racial profiling must be taken very seriously as it is essential that policing has the trust of confidence of all our communities.”

Commissioner Cressida Dick

Ms Buck added: “I really would like to see our Safer Neighbourhoods police teams rebuilt after a decade of cuts, because local knowl­edge and relationships are so, so important to effective and constructive policing.”

Commissioner Cressida Dick has made an apology to Ms Williams through a senior officer, but only after the former Olympic, and World sprint cham­pion Linford Christie, who trains the couple, posted a film on social media leading to national newspaper stories.

The commission­er, speaking at a home affairs select committee, said: “My senior officer has said I’m sorry to Miss Williams for the distress it has clearly caused her. If there are lessons to be learned from this we will learn them. I’m looking at handcuf­fing as a specific issue.”

Mr Christie had accused the police of racial profiling following the stop on Ms Williams, who has won Common­wealth and European relay gold medals.

Stop-and-search surged during the lockdown despite a very low percentage leading to an arrest and fewer people being out on the streets.

Westminster is in the top five boroughs for the highest proportion of stop-and-search of residents for April.

There were 30,608 searches in the capital for that month – the highest monthly figure number in two years. In neigh­bour­ing Camden, recent figures reveal that officers were making 33 stops each day.

In 2012, 200 Police Com­mun­ity Support Officers were removed from the streets of Westminster in the first round of austerity budget cuts. Police stations have been closed and sold off in remaining years.

The Williams case will be investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The body rarely makes rulings against officers.

The Met did not respond to a request for comment on cuts to Safer Neighbourhoods Teams.

In a statement Commander for Central West, Helen Harper, said: “The Directorate of Professional Standards reviewed the stop and were content there were no misconduct issues – they have revisited the officers’ body-worn video footage, social media footage and details of the incident to satisfy our­selves that remains the case. However, that does not mean there isn’t something to be learnt from every interaction we have with the public.”

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