The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has upheld Mani Arthur’s complaint that he was stopped and searched without reasonable grounds in November last year. The Black Cyclists Network (BCN) founder described it as a “degrading and humiliating experience” to be searched by the Metropolitan Police officer, who claimed to have smelled marijuana.
The incident occurred at the junction of Woburn Place and Euston Road on the afternoon of November 17.
Posting the video to Instagram, Arthur said: “I was detained and searched by a police officer under the suspicion of ‘smelling’ of marijuana. I was harassed and humiliated in a public space.
“To say that I am pissed off is an understatement. Luckily for me, fellow BCN members Aaron and Hugo were present and recorded the incident.”
Arthur said the situation came about while he was waiting for a green light when an officer told him to move his bike back behind the white line.
Explaining his positioning, Arthur said: “I was not blocking the pedestrian crossing. I told the officer that I would be putting myself in danger if I reversed because a small HGV was sitting directly behind me and I would end up in the driver's blind spot if I followed his instructions.
“I explained to the officer that usually there are cycle box lanes ahead of vehicle stop lines to protect cyclists and because there is a lack of one, I was using my common sense to avoid putting myself in danger.
“The officer tried again but I resisted and he turned around to join his colleagues as they were walking away. The lights changed to green.”
As Arthur was riding away, he heard a call to turn back from the officer.
“He asked for my ID and informed me that he smelled cannabis on me during our exchange. As a result he needed to search me for possession. He searched me by the side of the road.
“Before the search, I asked him and his colleagues if they smelled cannabis on me. They said yes. After the search, they conveniently said they did not smell cannabis on me.”
Official figures show that in London, if you are black, you are four times more likely to be stopped and searched.
The IOPC found the Metropolitan Police officer's grounds for the search, under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, were not reasonable.
However, 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 reason of smelling cannabis to stop and search 'people of all ethnicities and genders.'
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem told the BBC that the officer responsible did not understand that Mani felt he had been racially profiled. “So we recommended as part of the officer’s reflective learning practice here that he understood the wider context of stop and search and the disproportionate impact it actually has within black communities.”
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.”