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Police apologise to black civil servant after she was accused of being a car thief while out jogging

A black civil servant has received an apology from police after she was accused of being a car thief while out jogging near her home.

Dr Andrea Charles Fidelis, who works for the Ministry of Justice, claims she was racially profiled and threatened with arrest by an officer from Kent Police while out jogging in Swanley, near Sevenoaks.

Police had been responding to reports of an attempted car theft after a man claimed to have seen the 41-year-old leaving his driveway.

The mother-of-three told the BBC she was followed by her accuser and sought sanctuary in a railway station, before police arrived. 

Dr Charles Fidelis claimed an officer presumed she was guilty without asking any questions and did not believe that she was in fear of the man following her.

She later lodged a complaint against the officer, who she claimed has been ‘biased and discriminatory’.

The claim was not upheld by an investigation, but Kent Police has apologised to Dr Charles Fidelis ‘for the way the officer had spoken to her’.

Speaking about the incident, which took place on March 29, she told a podcast by Powell and Barns media: ‘I felt really humiliated and I was petrified. I was in shock.

‘I just couldn’t believe I was being accused.’  

In a blog, she wrote: ‘Throughout this whole saga I have not been treated equally to my white accuser.

‘The embodiment of black people being seen first as criminals, rather than victims has played out at every stage from start to finish.’

The findings of Kent Police’s inquiry, which was shared with Dr Charles Fidelis, said there was no evidence of ‘discrimination or incivility’ by the officer and the information available to the officer at the time was ‘sufficient to identify her as a suspect’.

But she claims the inquiry failed to take into account of the ‘engrained’ racial bias of the officer, who had been ‘unable to empathise’ with her. 

Dr Charles Fidelis, who sits on the Violent Crime Prevention Board as Director of Communications, told the BBC she had been aware of a ‘deeply held resentment in the black community towards policing’, but had previously had a ‘really positive experience with the police’.

However, her treatment had provided a ‘painful insight into how it plays out’, she said. 

She has appealed the outcome of the investigation and the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) was now assessing the appeal.

MailOnline has contacted the IOPC for a comment. A spokesperson said the IOPC had received the appeal and was assessing it. 

Deputy Chief Constable, Tony Blaker said: ‘A complaint from Dr Charles-Fidelis was received by Kent Police on March 29 which was investigated in line with the Independent Office of Police Conduct guidance.

‘During the enquiries into the complaint, the officer provided a full explanation for his actions; he was responding to a call he had been sent to and he felt the incident had been a misunderstanding on behalf of the owner of the vehicle.

‘Dr Charles-Fidelis’ concerns regarding the way in which the officer spoke to her were upheld by the Inspector investigating the complaint and dealt with by asking the officer to reflect and consider the way he had initially engaged with her after she had been distressed by the incident.

‘The complaint alleging the officer had been biased and discriminatory was not upheld.

‘Dr Charles-Fidelis was further invited to attend the police station, where on 12 June, the Inspector explained the outcome of his investigation and apologised for the way the officer had spoken to her. His contact details were also provided should she have any further concerns.

DCC Blaker added: ‘We are sorry Dr Charles-Fidelis had this experience and await the IOPC decision on her appeal before progressing any further action.

‘In any case, Kent Police would want to learn from this incident and ensure that any lessons are learned and our service to the public is improved.

‘We aim to give a first-class service to all those we serve and have interactions with.

‘As a force, we take racial equality and discrimination of any kind very seriously and strive to ensure fairness and diversity across the force.

‘In this instance, we are sorry that we failed to leave Dr Charles-Fidelis with a positive impression of Kent Police and will work to restore her confidence in us.’ 

The latest accusation of police profiling comes after Met Police chief Cressida Dick last month apologised to black Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams for the distress her officers caused her in a heavy-handed stop-and-search. 

Williams and her Portuguese sprinter husband Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were hauled from their Mercedes and handcuffed in front of their three-month-old son in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, last month.

Dame Cressida later told the Home Affairs committee she echoed a senior officer who had said ‘I’m sorry’ to the 26-year-old over the incident, which was heavily criticised and branded ‘racial profiling’ after video of it went viral.

It came as last month a League Two footballer said he was considering taking legal action against police after he was pulled over by officers and handcuffed while driving his girlfriend to the shops.

Ben Richards-Everton, who plays for Bradford City, was stopped by West Midlands Police while driving his new Range Rover through Sutton Coldfield in June.

Richards-Everton’s girlfriend filmed the incident who asked why he was being handcuffed or why an officer was pointing a Taser at him.

West Midlands Police officers claimed the number plate on Richard-Everton’s car had been linked to ‘drugs and firearms’, however, following a search, no weapons or illegal narcotics were recovered.  

Richards-Evans said last month he is considering making a formal complaint against West Midlands Police.

The police watchdog is launching a probe into whether officers across England and Wales racially discriminate against ethnic minorities.

In June, a middle-aged black couple quizzed by officers who demanded they show identification – because they were ‘driving a motor vehicle on a road’ – claimed they were made to feel like criminals.

Ingrid Antoine-Oniyoke, 47, and her 50-year-old husband Falil Oniyoke were stopped in Ipswich after one of them ‘glanced’ at a parked police car.

The couple were pulled over, ordered to provide a driving licence and told they were jumping on the Black Lives Matter ‘bandwagon’ when they questioned why they were stopped.

Suffolk Police has since issued an apology over the incident but the couple remain ‘hurt’ about the way they were treated, having initially just thought they’d been pulled over to help an investigation. 

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