U.K. Police Stopped And Searched A Black Teen Volunteering At Local Church

The 14-year-old victim was suspected of drug dealing in the area near St. Paul's Church.

St Paul's Church, Worcester
Photo Credit: Flickr

| August 05 2019,

1:58 pm

A Worcester, United Kingdom, teenager was stopped, search and handcuffed by police while volunteering at local church.

The victim, 14-year-old Vanylson Silva, was on his way to volunteer at St. Paul’s Church on July 21 when police approached him.

According to The Worcester News, the young community servant has been active in the church for some time. He and his mother have been part of the congregation for years. Volunteering was just a part of his dedication to the church. Right before Sunday's service, Vanylson got off his bike and attempted to enter the church when police spotted him.

West Mercia Police reportedly followed Vanylson for an unknown amount of time prior to the encounter. Without saying a word to the teen, the police handcuffed him. 

“The church workers told the police he was a volunteer. They uncuffed him and left, without even an apology," the victim's mother, Vanessa Santos, said in an interview with the outlet. 

Even after uncuffing and freeing the teen, Vanessa Santos said the police offered no real explanation for why the teen was arrested. 

"I just think it is harsh the way they dealt with it. There was no reason for him to be cuffed at 14 years old," the teen's mother told The Worcester News. "What would you expect a young boy to be doing inside a church on a Sunday morning." 

The Santos family is of Black and Portuguese descent. They are confident race was a primary factor in stop and search.

Vanylson attends West Bromwich Albion’s youth academy and is a rising soccer player.

“He’s a normal boy, he plays football five days a week, once a week he rides his bike with his friends," she said. "But he is not out on the streets, he knows to keep away from boys that smoke and drink.”

Since the ordeal, the police released a statement claiming the teen was in an area where there was previous drug activity. They continued stating the teen was not searched because a church worker stopped officers and informed them Vanylson had cause to be at the church. Police further justified their actions insisting the teen was hiding and acting suspicious moments before the police approached him. 

"Shortly afterward, officers were made aware the individual had a legitimate reason for being in the area and determined that no offenses had taken place and grounds to continue with any subsequent search no longer existed," police stated. “As such, the search was not conducted.”

Despite the outrage, the police department defended the practice of stop and search — which is a legal yet discriminatory practice in the United Kingdom. 

“I prepare my son and tell him that with our skin color, unfortunately, we are labeled," Vanessa said. "I tell him that people will react in different ways and some people will be nice to him, but others will not be so nice.”