Watchdog upholds complaint against police after officer stopped and searched black cyclist because he said he could smell cannabis

Watchdog upholds complaint against police after officer stopped and searched black cyclist because he said he could smell cannabis

  • Emmanuel Arthur said he was 'harassed and humiliated' during stop and search 
  • Officer admitted he could no longer smell cannabis after searching Mr Arthur 
  • IOPC found that the officer's grounds for the search were not reasonable 

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The police watchdog has upheld a complaint made by a cyclist who was stopped and searched in London after an officer claimed he could smell cannabis. 

Emmanuel Arthur, the founder of Black Cyclists Network, said he was 'harassed and humiliated in a public space' during the incident in November last year.

Mr Arthur posted a video of the stop and search on Instagram, which has since been widely shared online, where he was seen removing his shoes and being patted down by the police officer. 

The officer then admitted he could no longer smell cannabis.   

The police watchdog has upheld a complaint made by Emmanuel Arthur who was stopped and searched in London after an officer claimed he could smell cannabis

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found the Metropolitan Police officer's grounds for the search, under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, were not reasonable.

But Mr Arthur's complaint that he was racially profiled was not upheld because a review of a year of the officer's stop and search records found he had used the single reason of smelling cannabis to stop and search 'people of all ethnicities and genders,' the watchdog said.

Mr Arthur said the officer initially approached him while he was waiting at traffic lights, over the line where cars stop. 

He said that when the officer asked him to go back behind the line he refused because it would have been dangerous as it would have meant going into the blind spot of a small HGV behind him.

Watchdog upholds complaint against police after officer stopped and searched black cyclist because he said he could smell cannabis

Mr Arthur, the founder of Black Cyclists Network, said he was 'harassed and humiliated in a public space' during the incident in November last year

Mr Arthur then started cycling away when the lights changed but said he was called back by the officer who told him he smelt cannabis on him during their conversation.

He was then searched for drugs. 

Alongside the video Mr Arthur wrote: 'I am very annoyed at having to go through such a degrading and humiliating experience.

'It seemed to me like a gross abuse of power by an officer who tried to show off to his colleagues and made up a reason as retribution for his failed attempt.'  

Watchdog upholds complaint against police after officer stopped and searched black cyclist because he said he could smell cannabis

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found the Metropolitan Police officer's grounds for the search, under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, were not reasonable

Watchdog upholds complaint against police after officer stopped and searched black cyclist because he said he could smell cannabis

But Mr Arthur's complaint that he was racially profiled was not upheld because a review of a year of the officer's stop and search records found he had used the single reason of smelling cannabis to stop and search 'people of all ethnicities and genders,' the watchdog said

The officer, who has not been named, has been told to undertake 'reflective practice'.

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.'   

Mr Arthur is the founder of Black Cyclists Network, a group which aims to connect BAME cyclists, and was on his way back from a group ride when he was stopped.

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