Eight Metropolitan police officers are under investigation after a black 16-year-old was stopped six times in five months, on each occasion with nothing criminal found.
The police watchdog is investigating after the case triggered claims of racial profiling and a friend of the boy’s family said he had been left traumatised.
The Guardian has learned that one stop took place outside the boy’s mother’s house, another outside his grandmother’s house, one in a chicken shop and another by Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Officers need reasonable suspicion to carry out stop and search and the power is used disproportionately by police against black people, and especially against young black males.
The complaint covers stops of the child between January and May 2023, five of them in Tottenham, north London, and one close to the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said seven officers were being investigated for potential gross misconduct – meaning that if found guilty they could be sacked – and one for alleged misconduct.
It said five of the stops had potential issues, and the complaint from the boy’s mother alleged insufficient grounds for the stops, racial bias, that force was unreasonably used, that officers failed to consider the boy’s welfare and that proper rules may not have been followed.
The IOPC said the grounds given by officers for the stops included suspicion of having drugs or theft, and matching descriptions of people carrying out robberies and knife crime in the area.
People who know the child say he has no criminal record.
Ken Hinds, of the Haringey Independent Stop and Search Monitoring Group, which helped the boy and his mother make the complaint, said: “I’ve known him since the age of six. He’s a good kid, likes s and electronics. He’s been left traumatised. When he sees a police car he wants to run away.”
Charmaine Arbouin, an IOPC director, said: “The concerning allegations raised in the complaint – which include racial profiling of a child and insufficient grounds for stopping and searching them six times in five months – are issues that we know disproportionately affect Black and other minority ethnic communities and erode public confidence in policing. It’s therefore essential that we carry out an investigation – independent of the police – to look at each of these incidents and the actions and decision-making of the officers involved.”
The news comes amid a race crisis for the Met, with the group representing its own black and Asian officers calling for new police recruits to boycott the force.
That followed the Met putting the chair of the Met black police association, Insp Charles Ehikioya, before a tribunal. He could face sacking if found guilty of misconduct charges that his supporters say are trumped up and an attempt to thwart his efforts to fight prejudice in the force.
Commander Nick John, of the Met’s directorate of professional standards, said: “I understand the concern the news of this IOPC investigation will raise. Given the seriousness of these allegations, it is important that we understand exactly what has happened in each of these interactions.
“When used appropriately, stop and search powers save lives and is an important tactic to keep Londoners safe, helping us identify criminality and take dangerous weapons off our streets. We also know that when carried out incorrectly, it can have a significant impact on individuals and the wider community.”
The Met said it received the complaint in April 2023 and referred it to the police watchdog three months later.