A Black student support worker in the U.K., said that he was racially profiled by police and that law enforcement’s use of “stop and search” procedures in the city has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dwayne Francis says he was detained by London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers as he waited in his car for a post office to open while he was on his way to work on Wednesday morning (May 13.) Instead of being able to freely enter the building, Francis said he was ordered to exit the vehicle and then handcuffed.
The officers, he said were from the Met’s Territorial Support Group, a division that specializes in keeping public order.
“At all times I remained calm and explained why I was being unfairly treated and profiled. They attempted to claim that I had droplets of cannabis on the floor of my car, which was completely false,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian, noting that the officers failed to give identification numbers, and that he was blown off when he requested a record of the encounter. “At one stage, one of them even said to me: ‘Do you know what this area is like?’ I told him not to patronise me and that I had lived in the area for 32 years.”
Sian Berry, a candidate for mayor of London criticized the Met division, essentially agreeing with Francis.
“From start to finish this incident raises serious questions. Most parts of the Met seem to be focused on engagement and constructive detection work with lockdown in place,” she said. “Sounds like the TSG are just driving around at a loose end, exerting power over [not so] random citizens?”
The London MPS said Francis was searched under the U.K.’s Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. “Nothing was found, the driver was not arrested and no further action taken,” an official said. “The driver was provided with details of the officer who conducted the search and informed that to gain a copy of the search record he would need to attend a police station, as is standard protocol.”
Francis said that he tried to explain that he works with youth and is considered an essential worker and needed to get to his job. He was eventually released, but he now worries about what would happen if this had been one of his students.
“I also explained to them that I work with young people on a daily basis and educate them about how they should be calm and also be sure of their rights in a situation like this,” he said. “The officers showed a complete lack of regard for me, an adult and a respected figure in the community, but how would a 15 or 16-year-old handle a situation?”
Francis’ tweet went viral and has elicited a concerned response from Black Britons who say they fear police abuse mirroring a similar experience had in the United States.
“As a mother of two Black boys I am scared and outraged, but not surprised. You handled this perfectly, but as you say the youth will struggle to hold it down, the police would arrest them and goodness knows what would happen next … I pray you get some justice,” a commenter said, according to the Guardian.
Photo Credit: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images