Not to be sniffed at: Officer rapped for using cannabis smell as grounds for search



A police officer who stopped and searched a black man on the sole basis of the smell of cannabis has been rapped by a watchdog.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) upheld the complaint from Emmanuel Arthur, who was searched in London in November 2019 under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The watchdog said the grounds for search were not reasonable as the use of the smell of cannabis as a single ground is not good practice as set out in the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice on stop and search.

However, it did not uphold Mr Arthur’s complaint in respect of discriminatory behaviour, as a review of the officer’s previous stop and search records suggested he used the single ground of the smell of cannabis to stop and search people of all ethnicities and genders.

The IOPC recommended that the officer receive reflective practice, with a focus on looking at what constitutes reasonable grounds for stop and search, particularly relating to the smell of cannabis.

It also recommended the officer would benefit from further reflective practice to consider the impact of the disproportionate use of stop and search on BAME communities, as it appeared the officer did not understand why Mr Arthur had felt racially profiled by him.

Sal Naseem, regional director of the IOPC, said: “Stopping someone on the single ground of a suspicion of the smell of cannabis is not good practice and it’s right that the officer will have to reflect on this.

“Our investigation found the officer had used the same approach on other occasions, but with people of all sexes and ethnicities.

“However, it’s still important to acknowledge that Mr Arthur felt racially profiled. The importance of police officers recognising, and being aware of, the disproportionate impact stop and search has on black communities in particular cannot be understated.”