Student’s ‘humiliating’ Swiss Cottage stop and search was ‘prime example of ethnic profiling’ says charity
- Credit: Archant
A drama student has spoken out over the “humiliating experience” of being tackled to the ground by police outside a Swiss Cottage pub.
Moses Alexander, 21, has been backed up by a leading charity who described what happened to him as he left the Ye Olde Swiss Cottage pub as "prime example of ethnic profiling".
Moses, who studies at the nearby Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Eton Avenue, was leaving the pub with a friend at about 10.30pm on June 21 when, as he crossed the road near the Swiss Cottage Tube station, he said he was tackled to the ground by a number of police officers.
He has since made an official complaint to the police, who have admitted using "force" to search him and another man on the night in question.
Moses told this newspaper: "Supposedly we looked like we were doing a deal. Six officers stopped me - and not my friend - in the middle of a zebra crossing.
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"I was immediately grabbed and forced to the floor, all the while being told to 'stop resisting' while a knee was placed on my chest and my hands were held down.
"[I was] humiliated publicly - I've never been put in a position where I received a display of such raw aggression from the police."
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He continued: "It took place as I was crossing back towards my friends who were leaving the pub. It lasted around 25 minutes."
"The main officer said: 'There are a lot of crimes in the area,' and: 'If someone reported that someone had a knife, we wouldn't go and ask [...] - we'd go in, grab him and be ready to throw punches.'"
The student, who was brought up in Finchley but now lives in Stratford, said he was shocked by being mistaken for a criminal, and was confused by the reference to a knife, "especially since this wasn't the crime they supposedly stopped me for".
Moses' older sister Maya, 29, also condemned what happened, and said it was emblematic of police behaviour towards young black men.
She told the Ham&High: "Police on patrol saw them and assessed the white young man's behaviour to be 'sketchy'. But their immediate reaction was to forcibly handcuff and pin the black young man to the pavement in front of a crowd of his university peers."
Maya added: "The [stop and search] policy readily categorises leaving a pub and crossing a road as 'suspicious behaviour'.
"They don't ask questions first, they grab you and go in 'ready to throw punches' - as my brother was informed as he was kneed in the ribs."
The police claim Moses was "not compliant" and "appeared under the influence of drink" before they used force. They also said he had walked away from officers.
However Moses disagrees with their account, saying a cop told him he had been tackled to the ground as he had "tensed up." He also denies that he walked away.
He said: "Instead of just being scared, tensing up shouldn't be synonymous with the failure of compliance."
Katrina Ffrench, the chief exec of stop and search monitoring charity StopWatch, told the Ham&High: "This is a prime example of the ethnic profiling that happens with the use of stop and search powers.
"It is troubling that young black boys and men are routinely being viewed with suspicion and having to engage with the police unnecessarily.
"Furthermore, the disproportionate level of force officers use toward black individuals is also alarming and undoubtedly contributes to the trust and confidence deficit in the police."
A police spokesperson said: "At around 2210hrs on June 21, two men were stopped in Finchley Road, Camden.
"One of the men walked away from the officer. He was not compliant and appeared under the influence of drink. Force was used to detain him and the search of both men was completed.
"Nothing of note was found and the man was not injured. Police actions were fully explained."
Scotland Yard say they are awaiting confirmation that Moses' complaint has been received.
According to law, police have the power to stop and search you if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have been involved in a crime, or think that you are in possession of a prohibited item.
It is unclear on what supposedly reasonable grounds Moses was searched.