The founder of the Black Cyclists Network has accused police of “harassing and humiliating him” in public after an officer stopped and searched him under the pretext that he smelled of cannabis.
Mani Arthur was cycling with two friends when he was stopped near Euston, in central London, by an officer who, he says, ordered him to move into a dangerous position in the road.
When Arthur refused to comply, the officer called him over, claimed he smelled of cannabis, and demanded he submit to a stop and search, Arthur wrote in an Instagram post. Part of the exchange was caught on video.
“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,” Arthur said.
As news of the incident spread on social media, a senior Metropolitan police officer pledged to investigate the incident.
Supt Andy Cox, who leads the force’s component of London’s Vision Zero road safety campaign, tweeted: “Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have tasked a review into the circumstances of this interaction and use of #StopSearch.”
The incident took place on Monday afternoon, as Arthur and two friends were returning from a Black Cyclists Network meeting in south London. In his Instagram post, Arthur said he was waiting at traffic lights when three police officers crossed the road in front of him.
An officer told him he had to reverse his bicycle behind the white line where cars were supposed to stop, said Arthur. “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.”
At this point, Arthur says, he tried to cycle away, but the officer called him back. “He asked for my ID and informed me that he smelled cannabis on me during our exchange,” Arthur said. “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.”
Arthur said the “degrading and humiliating experience” was a “gross abuse of power” by an officer who was trying to show off to his colleagues as an act of revenge.
The latest figures on stop and search show that black people are about 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Critics say the disproportionality is evidence of the institutional racism of British police.