An investigator at a police watchdog has revealed she quit her role over the handling of a complaint about the stop and search of black athletes Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos.
Both athletes were handcuffed after the stop in north-west London in July 2020 with their three-month-old baby in the car.
The Metropolitan police referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which later announced that five officers will face a gross misconduct hearing over the incident.
Trisha Napier, who assessed the actions of the officers involved, told BBC Newsnight her investigation was “watered down”. She resigned from her post in November 2020 and is taking the watchdog to an employment tribunal. The IOPC denies the allegations.
Napier claims she was told in September 2020 that her assessment of the officers’ actions, based on viewing footage of the stop and search, would be downgraded from possible gross misconduct to the lower charge of misconduct.
She raised a formal complaint, claiming the decision to overrule her assessment may have been “politically motivated”.
“In other words, what the investigation was going to be based on was watered down,” she told Newsnight. “It casts serious doubt on its independence.”
“I felt I could no longer trust the organisation,” she said, discussing her decision to quit.
“The integrity of the organisation, in my view, was completely diminished and I could just no longer … work for them any more.”
An internal inquiry into her claim concluded in the IOPC’s favour, saying there was no evidence to support her allegations.
Williams and Dos Santos were stopped as they returned home from a training session at 1.20pm on 4 July 2020 in Maida Vale, north-west London, by officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group.
Footage of the stop and search was one of a series of videos that surfaced on social media that triggered concerns over the Met and how it was treating black people.
It came as the Black Lives Matter movement took off in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in the US.
When asked their reasons for the stop, police said they suspected the elite athletes may have drugs or weapons. Nothing was found and no arrests were made.
An IOPC spokesperson said: “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.
“As the result of that investigation and our direction to the Metropolitan police service, five officers are now facing gross misconduct proceedings for potential breaches of professional standards including equality and diversity.
“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.”