Police watchdog investigating 'racial profiling' complaint after black couple stopped
16 July 2020, 19:42
The police watchdog has launched an investigation into a complaint of "harassment and racial profiling" after a middle-aged black couple were stopped and questioned by officers.
Ingrid Antoine-Oniyoke, 47, and her husband Falil Oniyoke, 50, were told to show their IDs because they were "driving a motor vehicle on a road" when stopped by two Suffolk Police officers in Ipswich last month.
The couple were stopped on June 9 after "glancing" at a police car parked near Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke's mother's house.
Footage of the incident shared online sparked outrage, with one officer apparently accusing the couple of "jumping on the bandwagon" of the Black Lives Matter protests.
The couple's daughter Maja posted the video her mother had filmed of the exchange on Twitter, prompting Suffolk Police to issue a public apology.
Yesterday, my parents were stopped and questioned in their own driveway for “driving a motor vehicle on the road”, and “because they can”.— maja (@maobxby) June 10, 2020
It’s suspicious to walk from your car to your house, while black. The UK is not innocent. pic.twitter.com/Ym4DrN0hLT
In a statement released on Thursday, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) noted that the couple were not searched or arrested.
IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: "This incident has raised concerns about public confidence in policing and not least from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
"To ensure the police are accountable for their actions it is important we establish all of the circumstances surrounding this incident.
"We will be examining the stop, whether the actions of the officers were appropriate and proportionate, followed approved police policies and whether the officers treated the man and his partner differently because of their race."
The watchdog said a complaint was first lodged with Suffolk Police on the day after the incident.
The footage was referred to the force's Professional Standards Department, which in turn referred it to the IOPC on June 19, with its subsequent independent investigation now "in its early stages".
Suffolk Police previously apologised for the offence caused by comments recorded in the incident footage.
The force said it was "very aware of the depth of feeling surrounding the events of the last few weeks and the issue of racism in our society".
It added: "We always try to ensure we police all our communities with dignity, respect and fairness. Where those values are not met we will do everything we can to learn from that."
In the video, a male officer says: "At the end of the day, whether it looks funny or not, you were driving a motor vehicle on a road, so therefore I am requiring you to provide proof of drivers (licence)."
Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke tells him: "You are kidding us right now. You can see why people get upset."
"All that I need is proof that you are the driver of that vehicle, and you live here and we are gone," the officer replies.
The couple, from Watford, had been staying at Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke's mother's house while their own house was renovated.
The female officer tells them: "You have turned something irate that shouldn't be. You are just jumping on the bandwagon - that's not OK."
The officer appeared to be referring to the Black Lives Matter protests.
The male officer then tells Mr Oniyoke and Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke: "You look suspicious."
He continued: "You can argue and you can say 'why, why, why the whole time'."
Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke tells them "this is disgusting", while her husband says "this is profiling".
"You can laugh and shake your head as much as you want," Mrs Antoine-Oniyoke says.
Maja, a student, previously told the PA news agency that she found the clip so upsetting it was hard to watch.
Her parents had only been to the garage to collect her mother's car and had "glanced" at the police car parked in the quiet street as they returned.
The two officers only left when her father showed them ID.