Police apologise to black MoJ civil servant accused of being a car thief while jogging

MoJ official says a police officer refused to believe she was afraid for her life when she was followed by a white van
Photo: Andrea Charles Fidelis

Kent Police has apologised to a senior black civil servant who said she was racially profiled by an officer who threatened her with arrest while she was out jogging.

Dr Andrea Charles Fidelis, who works on counter-terrorism at the Ministry of Justice, said she was “dehumanised” by a police officer who refused to believe she was afraid for her life after being followed by a man in a van while jogging near her home.

Charles Fidelis told the Intelligent Conversation podcast she was "petrified" when a stranger in a white van stopped next to her and angrily questioned her about looking at his car, before following her for some distance to a secluded area.

She ran to a train station but when a police officer arrived, she said he did not believe her, instead accusing her of trying to steal the man's car.

Charles Fidelis complained to Kent Police that she had been racially profiled and treated in an "biased and discriminatory" manner.

An internal investigation concluded there was no evidence of "discrimination or incivility". It found the officer had not breached the force's policy or the law, and that the information they had been was “sufficient to identify Dr Charles Fidelis as a suspect".

However, the police force did apologise to the 41-year-old "for the way the officer had spoken to her".

Charles Fidelis is appealing the investigation.

She said the officer had been "unable to empathise or even see me as a potential victim", and that she had felt "brutalised" and "frightened to go out" since the encounter.

'Petrified'

Charles Fidelis said she was only a few minutes from home when a white van stopped next to her, and a man wound down the window and shouted at her. He continued to drive alongside her, asking where she lived and threatened to call the police.

Charles Fidelis told the podcast: “I felt really frightened – I froze for a moment…. I had these visions of, what if he mounts the pavement? What if he jumps out?”

Describing herself as “literally petrified”, she said she ran to a train station and called for assistance, telling station staff she was afraid for her life. But when a police officer arrived, she said he did not believe her, instead accusing her of trying to steal the man's car.

"He said, 'what do you think he was going to do? If he was going to do anything he would have. He wasn’t going to do anything… did you think he was going to attack you? You’re fit and well, you can defend yourself," Charles Fidelis said.  "He said, 'you're not in fear of your life, you tried to steal his car.'"

"I was dismissed by him as not having the capacity to have natural human feelings," she added.

"I felt really humiliated and I was petrified. I was in shock… I just couldn’t believe that I was being accused."

But she said when she told the officer she worked for the MoJ in counter-terrorism, “his complete demeanour changed" and that he later chalked up the incident to a "misunderstanding".

"It’s painful. You can see I’m struggling to articulate the words because there’s so much at stake with my reputation; I have high-level security clearance... To just be demeaned, it’s just bizarre. Nobody that knows me would think I was a car thief," she said.

Charles Fidelis said the incident had left her feeling "very broken, very anxious".

"There’s a lot to unpack in this situation and there are wider implications in the work I do and how I feel in my community," she said.

Kent Police said it "takes all complaints relating to racial discrimination seriously" and confirmed Charles Fidelis had appealed the outcome of the complaint, which is now being examined  by the  Independent Office of Police Conduct.

"This is now in the hands of the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) to allow the matter to be considered independently," the force said.

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