IOPC investigator quit 'as bosses watered down Bianca Williams probe'

Police watchdog investigator quit ‘because bosses watered down her probe into Met officers who stopped and searched black Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner and put them in handcuffs’

  • Bianca Williams and Ricardo dos Santos were stopped in London in July 2020
  • They accused Met Police officers of racially profiling them in the incident
  • A probe by the IOPC took place and five officers face gross misconduct charges
  • Trishia Napier, an investigator for the watchdog, says probe was watered down
  • She has accused higher-ups of ‘interfering’ in her investigation into the incident
  • The IOPC has strongly denied this, saying there is ‘no evidence’ of interference 

An investigator for the police watchdog says she quit her job after bosses watered down her probe into the stop and search of black Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams.

Trishia Napier had been tasked by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) with looking into the actions of Met officers who handcuffed Ms Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos in west London in July 2020.

Ms Napier accused her boss of interfering in the investigation and said her recommendation that officer’s actions be viewed as possible gross misconduct – an offence for which they could be fired – was downgraded by higher-ups to the lower charge of misconduct.

The IOPC says it ‘absolutely refutes’ the claims and says an internal investigation found ‘no evidence of any improper practice or interference in the investigation or our decision-making’.

Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos (pictured together) were stopped and searched by police in west London in July 2020

Trisha Napier (pictured) said higher-ups ‘interfered’ in her IOPC investigation into the incident 

Ms Williams and Mr dos Santos had been pulled over by police while driving through Maida Vale in July 2020 with their baby. 

Footage posted on social media showed officers searching the couple’s car for weapons and drugs, while the pair were handcuffed in front of their three-month-old son.

Following the stop and search, which found nothing suspicious, Ms Williams accused officers from Scotland Yard of racially profiling them.

An investigation was launched by the IOPC, and five officers are now facing the sack for potential breaches of professional standards, including equality and diversity.

However, Ms Napier, who assessed the actions of the officers for the IOPC, told BBC Newsnight she felt higher-ups had ‘interfered’ with the investigation into what happened.

She said she said her boss Michael Lockwood, the former director general of the IOPC, had asked to see footage and documents in the case, something that had not happened in previous investigations.

Ms Napier, who had worked at the IOPC for 17 years, said after doing this Sal Naseem, the organisation’s regional director for London, was chosen to oversee the case in place of someone already in that role.

She added that her conclusion that some of the officers involved in the incident should face potential gross misconduct proceedings was overturned to a lower charge of misconduct. 

She told Newsnight the decision was ‘unprecedented’, adding: ‘I was supposed to be leading an investigation and my decisions were overturned by senior managers.’

Ms Napier said she raised a formal complaint over the decision, suggesting her assessment may have been ‘watered down’ and casting ‘serious down on its [IOPC] independence’.

Police officers at the scene of the stop and search in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, west London, in July 2020

Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick apologises to Bianca Williams for ‘distress’ caused by ‘racially profiled’ stop-and-search as she launches review of force’s handcuffing policy 

 

After an internal inquiry found in favour of the IOPC, Ms Napier resigned in November 2020. She is currently taking her former employer to tribunal.

She told the BBC: ‘I felt I could no longer trust the organisation. The integrity of the organisation, in my view, was completely diminished and I could just no longer… work for them anymore.’

The IOPC announced last year that five officers involved would face gross misconduct proceedings, although a date for this has not yet been set.

Commenting on the claims made by Ms Napier, a spokeswoman for the watchdog said in a statement: ‘IOPC decisions are made independently of the police, the Government and any other group or individual. They are based solely on the available evidence.

‘We absolutely refute the suggestion that our decisions were influenced by anything other than the evidence during this investigation.

‘In 2021, an employee raised a concern that there had been improper political or external interference brought to bear on our investigation.

‘We took that allegation very seriously and the matter was investigated by a number of senior individuals.

‘We concluded that these serious allegations were without merit and found no evidence of any improper practice or interference in the investigation or our decision-making.’

Responding to Ms Napier’s claims that Mr Lockwood had interfered in the case, the spokeswoman added: ‘The director general is responsible and accountable for all IOPC operational decisions.

‘The vast majority of those decisions are delegated from the director general to our operational colleagues and as a result they may seek assurance that those decisions are appropriate in a range of ways including by reviewing the evidence themselves. This is not unusual or unique to this case.’

Source: Read Full Article