The founder of the Black Cyclists Network has accused the Met Police of a “gross abuse of power” after he was stopped and searched by an officer who claimed he smelt of cannabis.
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Mani Arthur, who set up the community to “connect and encourage cyclists of colour,” was on his way back from a celebratory group ride, in a tie up between the network and Maurice Burton’s De Ver Cycles local bike shop.
Sharing a video of the search on Instagram, Arthur said: “I am very annoyed at having to go through such a degrading and humiliating experience.”
The incident took place on Sunday afternoon, at the junction between Woburn Place and Euston Road in London.
Arthur said the interaction began when he was waiting at a red light, and was asked to move back behind the white line.
“Three police officers were crossing the road. The one in the video told me to reverse my bicycle back behind the white line were vehicles have to stop. 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.”
Arthur says that when the light turned green, he was called back.
“I walked over to the officer on the pavement. He asked for my I.D. 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 smell cannabis on me. They said yes. After the search. They conveniently said they did not smell cannabis on me.”
Concluding his account of the event, Arthur added: “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.”
Asked about the incident, a Met police spokesperson said: “Intelligence-led stop and search is a one of a range of tactics used by police to prevent violent crime from taking place. We are driving up the number of intelligence-led stop and searches, preventing crime, reducing injuries and saving lives. We are committed to working with communities across London to improve confidence in the use of stop and search powers.”
He added: “The latest data shows that in the last 12 months there were fewer than 550 complaints from nearly 248,000 stop and search encounters.”
UK government stats show that over the course of 2017/2018, there were three stop and searches for every 1,000 white people versus 29 for every 1,000 black people – with the latter 9.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
Statistics suggest the divide is growing – in 2016/2017, black people were eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, up from four times more likely in 2014/2015.