A black paralegal has spoken out after saying he was stopped by five police officers on his way to see a client in jail because he “looked suspicious”.
Eldred Taylor-Camara, 26, of MTC Solicitors, was traveling to HMP Lewes, East Sussex, on the afternoon of October 24 when he was being questioned by British Transport Police officers at Lewes railway station.
Dressed in a full suit, he said he was asked to give an account of his trip, including where it started and its purpose, and was asked to provide specific details such as places and times, which left him “stressed out and physically shattered”.
When Mr Taylor-Camara answered her questions and asked why he was being questioned, he said he had been informed that he looked “lost” which “raised her suspicions” and was asked to produce identification.
The paralegal believes he was racially profiled by officers, who he said could not provide a “resilient explanation” for why he was stopped and subjected to “extensive questioning”. Police said they received “information” about an “extremely violent” drug dealer in the area, and he matched the description.
“I felt vulnerable and attacked,” Taylor-Camara said The Independent. “They say the attack was ‘intelligence led’. If that is the case, however, I am concerned about the glaring mistakes that were made – the actions of the officials who were supposedly acting on an intelligence basis were obviously inadequate and the intelligence information was simply inaccurate.
“The reason for the stop was unnerving. It showed the police’s distancing between themselves and those in the public who are likely to encounter this type of treatment – black and male people in particular.
“Due to the behavior of the officers and the inadequate response to my complaint, the only plausible reason I could come up with at that point was that I was being stopped because I am a young black man.”
Mr Eldred-Taylor complained to British Transport Police but this was not upheld. The force defended their actions, saying officers behaved “acceptably” – a response Mr Eldred-Taylor described as “disappointing”.
“I felt intimidated and publicly humiliated by the behavior of the officers. Despite my formal attire and the explanation that I work for a law firm, I was treated with suspicion and interrogated at length,” Taylor-Camara said in a letter to police.
“It should be noted that these officers were not from Sussex Police but were actually based at London Bridge from UK Traffic Police, which only compounds the allegation that I was misplaced or lost and therefore being criminally suspicious seemed.
“Had they been local officials with a thorough understanding of the city and its residents, it might have been plausible.”
The paralegal tells The Independent: “This isn’t to say that people in formal attire don’t commit crimes, but using that as a basis for addressing me in a busy train station is unacceptable.
“The most important thing for me is to raise awareness of this issue. For those experiencing it, I am aware that this is nothing new. However, for those who are trying to pursue a career because they believe it will protect them from profiling… I want them to be aware that this is still a possibility. It is important to highlight this reality so that it informs others.”
This scenario reflects the loss of trust between UK police and black communities, Taylor-Camara added.
Black people are nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, and five times more likely to use force. Additionally, Black people have well below average levels of trust in their police forces (64 percent versus 74 percent on average).
Commentary on the case, lawyer and star of The hunt Shaun Wallace told The Quiz Show that despite promises of “real and positive change” following the MacPherson Report’s findings on police racism sparked by the response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, nothing has changed.
“Eldred understandably and rightly complained about the treatment and behavior of the so-called investigators and made a formal complaint to a British Transport Police Complaints Unit, but unsurprisingly his complaint was dismissed.”
Mr Wallace compared that case to controversial police stops of athletes Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, saying these “worrying reports” only show that the widespread problem of racial profiling within the police force shows “little signs of abating”.
“But what can you do about it? Proper education of the troops in areas of anti-discrimination? A truly independent body investigating such matters to ensure greater accountability? Maybe so, but these are just two suggestions from an endless list of what can and must be done to eradicate the cancer of stereotypical racial profiling.
“Until a permanent solution is found, we must remain vigilant and continue to shed light on such dark and shady practices.”
A BTP spokesman said an investigation that included a review of body-worn camera footage of the stop and interviews with all officers involved found their actions were acceptable and no further action was taken.
“Our officers, who patrol the railway every day and engage with passengers, are not there to cause trouble, but to ensure everyone is safe and the network remains a hostile environment for criminals. Preventing passengers from speaking to them is an essential part of this and we will always provide our full justification for doing so,” they added.