Police in London have been accused of racial profiling by a school pastoral support worker whose account on Twitter of being handcuffed and questioned has prompted questions about the role of officers during the city’s lockdown.
Dwayne Francis, who was detained while waiting in his car for a post office to open en route to work, said young black men’s negative experiences of police use of stop and search in London had got worse during the coronavirus pandemic.
His recollection of the incident in Lewisham on Wednesday morning has been shared thousands of times on Twitter, and the Green party’s London mayoral candidate has pledged to raise the issue with Scotland Yard.
“I was parked up when they drove past and then returned and demanded that I get off the phone and get out of my car,” Francis said. Despite showing them his work badge, the officers insisted he get out before one of them handcuffed him. Francis said they were from the Metropolitan police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG), which specialises in public order policing.
“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.
“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.
“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. The officers showed a complete lack of sregard for me, an adult and a respected figure in the community, but how would a 15 or 16-year-old handle a situation?”
He was eventually allowed to continue on his way and the officers returned to their van. He said none provided identification numbers, and when he requested documentation of the incident, he was told he could get it at a local police station.
Francis’s thread prompted responses, including one from Siân Berry, the co-leader of the Green party in England and Wales, who said: “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. Sounds like the TSG are just driving around at a loose end, exerting power over [not so] random citizens?”
Another user said: “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 police spokesperson said: “Metropolitan police officers on proactive patrol to tackle crime in Lewisham spoke with a driver in a car parked on Rokeby Road at 09:41 hrs on Wednesday 13 May.
“The officers searched the driver and the car under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Nothing was found, the driver was not arrested and no further action taken.
“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.”