• Up to 15 cops in drug search
• Police accused of racial profiling
Upwards of 15 police officers entered Royal Holloway University of London’s (RHUL) students’ union last Friday, undertaking what the college called a “routine drugs education and awareness exercise”. Police used sniffer dogs and stopped and searched students who they thought were carrying drugs.
Daniel Cooper, University of London Union (ULU) vice-president, was forcefully arrested after questioning why police were searching a group of minority ethnic students.
According to student union sabbatical officers and others who witnessed the scene, ten uniformed officers, two police sniffer dogs and up to five plain clothes officers were present.
A former RHUL student and eyewitness on the night, Amar Singh, told London Student how he was stopped and searched by police twice in the course of 20 minutes.
He said that the police stopped and searched him on the grounds that he was ‘loitering’, adding that he “felt rather dehumanised as they trawled through everything trying to find drugs.” After the second search “the police finally left me alone,” he said.
“In the three years I spent at RHUL I never came across the police like this in our SU.”
He said he didn’t want to accuse the police of racially profiling those they stopped but said: “I find that the facts of the matter do point towards this.”
Daniel Cooper, ULU vice-president, intervened in one such stop-and-search, asking the police what they were doing. Then in scenes of confusion, captured by Felipe Mora on his phone, police informed Cooper that he was under arrest. Cooper repeatedly asked them “what are you doing?” before four or five officers bundled him to the ground.
Onlookers trying to film were pushed out of the way. Mora had union staff and police shout at him to stop filming and one of them tried to knock the phone out of his hand.
Videos show Cooper being carried out of the union by five or six officers. He was taken to Staines police station where he was held for several hours before being released with a caution for obstructing a police officer.
A spokesperson for Surrey police said that officers were present “as part of an intelligence-led operation aimed at disrupting the supply of illegal drugs.” They confirmed that a 23 year-old man had been arrested and subsequently accepted a caution for obstructing a police officer.
They said: “The use of stop and search is an important and effective tactic in the prevention and detection of crime.”
They added: “The Force refutes any suggestion that such searches carried out during Friday’s operation were in any way as a result of ‘profiling’.”
Royal Holloway management claim in a statement put out on the staff/student intranet that it was the student union’s staff and elected officers who invited the police into the student union. However, the elected student union officers deny this.
Jamie Green, vice-president communications and campaigns at Royal Holloway student union, said that the elected officers did not invite the police. “The sabbs were not consulted,” he said. However, Green said that the “commercial arm” – the full time staff of the union – did know that the police were coming, but weren’t informed of the scale of the operation.
Val Swain of the Police Monitoring Network, described police actions at Royal Holloway as “unnecessary and disproportionate.” She pointed out that “the use of stop and search on university campuses is generally likely to be counter-productive, reducing trust between students and the university, which has a duty of care.” She added that the police ombudsman, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, had recognised such problems with the use of stop-and-search earlier this year.
A protest was held at Royal Holloway on Wednesday 2nd October demanding “cops off campus”. The organisers, the Royal Holloway Anti-cuts Alliance, said they were protesting against “the excessive and heavy-handed police presence at Royal Holloway.”