Daniel Cooper, vice-president of the University of London Union, was at Royal Holloway, University of London, on September when police entered the building with sniffer dogs as part of an anti-drugs operation.
According to a statement from the Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance, which campaigns against government cuts to higher education funding and increased tuition fees, Mr Cooper was “wrestled” to the ground by seven members of the Surrey Police after attempting to “obstruct the search of two black students”. He was later released with a caution, the group says.
“New students were enjoying the first major night of the new term at the university campus in Egham when at least 15 officers and two sniffer dogs entered the students’ union and conducted a series of stop and searches,” the statement says.
It goes on to quote Yasin Mudey, a physics student at the university. “Black students were disproportionately singled out for searching,” he says.
According to a separate statement by sabbatical officers at the Royal Holloway Students Union, the “amount of police and the operation run by them was not approved, nor even discussed” with them. “We will be looking into this further,” it continues.
“We believe that their attendance was intimidating to our members…students’ unions should be safe spaces for students, and our relationship with our students is one of trust and adult responsibility.”
Their statement also says the union will investigate allegations that the police used “racial profiling” and “unreasonable force” during the operation.
A spokesman for Surrey Police confirmed that a number of officers and had attended the university as part of “an intelligence-led operation aimed at disrupting the supply of illegal drugs”.
It added that a 23-year-old man had been “arrested at the scene and subsequently accepted a caution for obstructing a police officer”.
A 19-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and was subsequently released on bail pending further enquiries.
“The use of stop and search is an important and effective tactic in the prevention and detection of crime,” he added.
“The powers must be used lawfully and fairly in a non-discriminatory way and random sampling is conducted periodically to ensure that this is the case. The force refutes any suggestion that such searches carried out during Friday’s operation were in any way as a result of ‘profiling’.
“Our local Safer Neighbourhood Team will continue to work very closely with the university to help keep students safe and try to ensure they do not become targets for criminals such as burglars and drug dealers.”
A spokeswoman for Royal Holloway said that the police had been invited to the union “at the request of the Student’s Union Commercial Services team”.
“The students who were searched were those who had provoked a reaction from the passive drugs dog,” she added.
“The students who only provoked a minor reaction from the dog were not searched. No drugs were found. A person was arrested for the alleged assault of an officer and has since been released.
“Royal Holloway is one of the top 20 safest universities in England and Wales and a firm partnership between the staff, students, public and police is key to keeping our students safe.”