Labour MP Dawn Butler accuses police of racial profiling after traffic stop

090820 Dawn Butler

Labour MP Dawn Butler has accused the Metropolitan Police of racial profiling after she and a friend were stopped by officers while driving in London.

Ms Butler, the Labour MP for Brent Central, was pulled over by officers in Hackney, east London, on Sunday afternoon, while she and a black male friend were driving through the borough in a "nice car".

The former shadow equalities secretary told Channel 4 News there was "no other reason" she was stopped "apart from the colour of our skin and it's a fairly nice car".

Ms Butler recorded the "interesting" incident, which showed her telling the officers it was "really quite irritating" to be pulled over.

She told the officers she felt she "cannot drive around and enjoy a Sunday afternoon whilst black, because you’re going to be stopped by police".

One of the officers told her that "isn't the case at all", said he appreciated "everything" she had said and apologised to her for "wasting" her time.

She said the way the officers stopped her was "polite", but said she was "concerned about the reason for the stop".

"If you're just profiling people who are driving outside the area, I think that's a ridiculous reason to stop, if you're profiling people who are driving a certain type of car, that's an inappropriate reason to stop and if you're profiling people because of the colour of their skin, that's an inappropriate reason to stop," she told the officers.

At the start of the video one officer asks if Ms Butler is from London, adding: "We're just asking what you're up to in the area, that's all, we're doing proactive patrols in the Hackney borough, combatting gang and knife crime, things like that."

"We also want to know that people are driving legitimately as well," he added.

Ms Butler told the officers she is a Member of Parliament who has been working with the police around stop and search.

"The way you do it, and the way you profile is wrong," she told the officers, "because what you do is, you create an environment where you create animosity".

Ms Butler told C4 her "upset and outrage" is that "this happens every single day to innocent black people".

She said she wants to "make the system fairer so that people can just walk about or go about on a sunny Sunday afternoon and go to lunch without fear of being stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin".

One officer explained the reason for the stop, saying the police's number plate recognition system had made an error.

When asked for a further explanation, the officer said: "I typed in the registration, it's come up the same make, model, colour of the vehicle and it said something about North Yorkshire.

"Run it through again, that North Yorkshire's not there anymore."

When asked how that could have happened, the officer said "I don't know, I do apologise".

Ms Butler said Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick should "spend all of her waking moments trying to eradicate institutional racism from the Met Police".

Ms Dick has previously said the term institutional racism is "not a label I find helpful".

Responding to that in her interview with C4, Ms Butler said "if she doesn't find it a helpful term then she's not the right person for the job".

The Met Police explained the incident, saying prior to the stop "an officer incorrectly entered the registration into a police computer which identified the car as registered to an address in Yorkshire.

“Upon stopping the vehicle and speaking with the driver, it quickly became apparent that the registration had been entered incorrectly and was registered to the driver in London.

“Once the mistake was realised the officer sought to explain this to the occupants; they were then allowed on their way.

“No searches were carried out on any individuals."

Met Police North West Chief Superintendent Roy Smith tweeted after speaking to Ms Butler on the phone, and said the force is "listening" to her concerns.

He wrote: "She was positive about one officer & gave feedback on others & the stop. We are listening to those concerns & Dawn is quite entitled to raise them."

The Met Police added "we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with the occupants if they wish to do so".