MPS officers must justify pre-arrest handcuffing following review

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers will have to justify their use of handcuffs before making an arrest following a review launched after the stop and search of Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams.

Jan 11, 2021
By Tony Thompson

Ms Williams accused the force of “racially profiling” her and her partner Ricardo dos Santos when they were handcuffed and separated from their three-month-old son last July.

MPS Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick apologised to the athlete after footage of their car being stopped in Maida Vale, West London, was posted online by former Olympic medallist Linford Christie.

She also launched a review into the use of handcuffs where an arrest has not been made – a tactic most commonly used during stop and search.

The force said it will improve its “training, policy and processes” following the review, which makes ten recommendations.

“The Met will now develop a specific policy on handcuffing pre-arrest that will set out clear guidance for officers, including the requirement to justify any initial application of handcuffs as well as their continued use during an interaction,” a statement said.

Recommendations include “additional legal training, extended officer safety and improved personal safety training for police officers, de-escalation tactics and more community input to understand the respective experiences of each during encounters”.

The MPS has also amended its stop and search e-form to include any use and justification for handcuffs pre-arrest.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who led the review, said: “The Met is determined to be the most trusted police service in the world.

“Officers are out on the streets of London every day, bearing down on violent crime, and in the course of doing so will have thousands of interactions with the public.

“Ensuring the trust and confidence of the public is reliant upon the quality of our interactions and our communication before, during and after any stop where handcuffs are believed by officers to be needed.

“I am grateful to the members of the public, police officers and critical friends who took time to help with this important work which I believe will help us to improve our practices and with it, the trust of the public.”

The review included consultations with young black men, aged between 16 and 25, as well as frontline officers.

It found that searches of the same people, where nothing is found, are “extremely corrosive to the person’s and wider communities’ trust and confidence in policing”.

“The public are concerned that the use of handcuffs can be degrading and, whilst accepting there is a place for it, handcuffs should not be the first resort, and more effort should be made in communication and explanation that might make the use of handcuffs unnecessary,” it said.

“The use of handcuffs pre-arrest is an issue of community concern. It is clear that there is a sound legal basis in some circumstances for the use of handcuffs pre-arrest in order to conduct a stop and search.

“However, this needs to be justified on every occasion and cannot, and must not, be considered a matter of routine or common practice that is done without proper consideration and recording on each occasion.

“The MPS needs to restate its position on this clearly for all officers and staff, as well as expectations around the recording of all uses of force including pre arrest handcuffing.”

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