After allegations of racism, the police have been told to stop using the smell of cannabis as the sole reason to initiate a stop and search.

Just last week a police watchdog upheld the complaint made by a black man who was subjected to a stop and search last November as he was cycling in London.

Emmanuel Arthur is one of the co-founders of Black Cyclists Network and he was stopped by the police on his way back from a group ride hosted by his group.

Harassed and Humiliated

Emmanuel Arthur-min-cannabis-londonHe was stopped by a Metropolitan police officer who claimed that he smelled of cannabis and was then subjected to a search at a street junction.

Shortly after the stop and search he made a post on social media about the incident, he said he was “harassed and humiliated in a public space”. He went on to write, “I am very annoyed at having to go through such a degrading and humiliating experience. It seemed to me like a gross abuse of power.”

Footage of the incident was widely shared on social media and it shows Mr Arthur being forced to remove his shoes while his body, in a skin-tight cycling uniform, was searched.

Mr Arthur can be heard on the video asking the officers if they could carry out the search and that what they were doing was “ridiculous”. No drugs were found during the search.

Complaints of discrimination

He made a complaint of racial discrimination that was not upheld. However, the Independent Office for Police Conduct found that the grounds for the search were not reasonable and violated police guidelines.

The officer claimed that he had smelled cannabis and the cyclist has moved past the white lines at a traffic stop. Mr Arthur said that he was not blocking traffic at the junction and had, in fact, moved in front of an HGV for safety.

Mistrust of the police

Official figures show that black people in England are 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Those same figures show that they are also less likely to have drugs on them when they are searched.

The disproportionate response and further allegations of racism in policing has been a focus of the Black Lives Matter protests taking place in London and all over the United Kingdom.

There is a lack of trust in the police, especially when it comes to drug charges against minorities and it is up to those in power, who have regulatory control over the actions of the police to change and improve relations.

Regional Director Sal Naseem had this to say about the ruling,

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.”


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