Police reinvestigate stop-and-search where Asian man’s car window was smashed

A City of London Police probe has identified areas for ‘organisational and individual learning’.

Police officer writes in notebook
Police officer writes in notebook

A police reinvestigation of a stop-and-search in which a South Asian man’s car window was smashed shows failings on “both an individual and organisational level”, a lawyer has claimed.

The City of London Police probe into the stop-and-search of Ryan Colaco has identified areas for “organisational and individual learning”, the force said.

Sophie Khan, lawyer and legal director at Just For Public Law, who is representing Mr Colaco, said the force “has a window of opportunity to change the way they police black and minority ethnic Londoners”.

Mr Colaco was stopped on suspicion of carrying drugs near Cannon Street station in central London during lockdown on May 29 2020.

Ryan Colaço.
Ryan Colaco says he has was ‘heavily discriminated against’ (Ryan Colaco/PA)

An officer smashed his driver’s window with a baton, he was pulled from the vehicle, put on the floor, handcuffed, put against a wall, then driven to a police station and strip searched, where nothing illicit was found.

The officers involved claimed he acted suspiciously by allegedly closing his front windows, appearing to slide down in his seat as if hiding, and reaching towards his waistband, the new report revealed.

Shortly before the incident, he was interviewed by Channel 4 News on the racial profiling of black and minority ethnic people by the Metropolitan Police, after an incident when police allegedly wrongly said there was a “smell of cannabis” coming from his window.

Mr Colaco, 32, of east London, a location manager in the film industry, made a complaint about the “institutionally racist” system after the incident, and told police he has “never been involved with cannabis or illegal drugs”.

City of London Police have completed a reinvestigation report after Mr Colaco sought a review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), a police watchdog.

The reinvestigation consulted a representative of the City of London Police Black Police Association, who said body-worn video footage captured by officers “does not support the statements from officers that Mr Colaco is fiddling with his waistband in an attempt to hide something”.

They said officers’ assumption that “Mr Colaco is in the area to sell drugs is difficult to understand”, adding that the smashing of the driver’s window “clearly raises a risk of injury to Mr Colaco”.

They added: “At one point there appeared to be 12 officers at the scene. Was this necessary considering the officers were dealing with one individual that was not going anywhere?”

The report, given to the PA news agency by Mr Colaco’s lawyer after City of London Police said it was not a public document, reveals officers did not have any specific intelligence relating to the complainant or his vehicle which could have generated grounds to conduct the search.

In the reinvestigation report, Detective Sergeant Oliver Walker apologised for the “profound impact” on Mr Colaco, adding: “There is a consistent opinion that the incident as a whole could have been managed more effectively, which I agree with, and Mr Colaco could have been given more time to respond to the officers.”

The report also reveals that GoWisely, a process whereby officers should provide information to a person detained for the purpose of a search, was not completed.

It was also found that the officers may have had other options instead of smashing the driver’s side window to get into the vehicle, the report said.

The “tactic of gauging the complainant’s reaction to a false statement” was also flagged as poor practice, after an officer told him that local businesses had reported his car as suspicious when this was not the case.

In the document, Detective Chief Inspector Carly Humphreys said: “The officers appear to have an understanding of ‘unconscious bias’, although I believe all would benefit from cultural sensitivity training regarding the lack of trust and confidence which particularly black people have in the police.”

She added “there is no evidence the officers had acted with any racial or discriminatory basis” but still recommended “dip-sampling of the stop and search cases for these officers”.

The officers have been told to undertake refresher training on the use of force, the use of the National Decision-Making Model and recording of decisions and actions.

The report said Mr Colaco was primarily removed from his car by Met Police officers, adding: “It would appear that the Metropolitan Police officers were responsible for pushing the complainant against the wall to control him after a request was made for him to face the wall by a City of London Police officer.”

The Met Police have been approached for comment.

Ms Khan said: “It is highly unusual for the police to be faced with a direction to reinvestigate their original findings and then to carry out a reinvestigation on the direction that there be a set of agreed terms of reference.

“The agreed terms of reference allowed the reinvestigation to be focused on the specific actions of the officers involved in the stop-search on May 29 2020, and ultimately has resulted in a number of findings that the City of London Police failed Ryan on both an individual and organisational level.”

Mr Colaco said he finds driving “quite nerve-wracking” after the incident which “shows the mental health implications it can have on people like me”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Becky Riggs, City of London Police lead for professionalism and trust, said: “We take all allegations very seriously and the professionalism of our officers and staff is extremely important to us in the City of London Police.

“Our professional standards directorate completed a thorough reinvestigation of this complaint following an appeal by Mr Colaco against the original findings.

“This investigation identified organisational and individual learning which is now being implemented.

“This includes a reflective review of the incident, utilising an independent external charity to gain an insight of young black people’s experience of stop and search, and force-wide learning relating to how seized property is managed.”

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