By Sophie Squire
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Cops’ racist strip search leaves child self-harming and traumatised

There were 25 searches of under-18s in Hackney in 2020-21. Only two were of white children
Issue 2797
Yellow hi-vis jacket with Met Police n it

The Met police has an appalling record of racism and sexism

The Met police, condemned by multiple examples of gross racism and sexism, now hopes to escape responsibility for the horrific strip search of a black child.

It took place in 2020, but details have only just been released. It follows the forced resignation of Cressida Dick, the assault on women commemorating the murder of Sarah Everard, assistance with the cover-up of Boris Johnson’s crimes and revelations about foul messages passed routinely among officers.

It is also the force whose officers “dehumanised” two black murder victims “for their own amusement”. They did it by taking and sharing photos from the scene where Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were found stabbed to death.

But the Met, despite growing public anger against it, has survived calls for systematic change. That’s why this latest case matters—it confirms the inbuilt nature of its racism and sexism. The strip search was done in the full knowledge that the child was on her period and led to the exposure of her intimate body parts. The 15-year-old, known as Child Q was pulled out of an exam so that what a safeguarding report has called the “traumatic incident” could take place.

Child Q said, “I can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up.” Her mother told the report’s authors that after the strip-search her daughter had been “asked to go back into the exam” she had been sitting “without any teacher asking her about how she felt knowing what she had just gone through”.

The girl’s maternal aunt was quoted as saying the pupil had changed from “top of the class” to “a shell of her former bubbly self”, adding she was “now self-harming and requires therapy”.

Teachers at her school called the Met Police after wrongly suspecting her of carrying cannabis. No appropriate adults were present in the room at the time of the search, and teachers were told by police to wait outside. Child Q’s mother wasn’t contacted beforehand. 

The report, written by City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) details how “racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search”.

There were 25 searches of under-18s in the same borough in 2020-21. Only two were of white children. Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said that “racism absolutely played a part”. “The Met Police is not going into private schools and asking white girls to spread their buttock cheeks,” she said.

But it also shows the police were not the only problem. It says, “School staff deferred to the authority of the police on their arrival at school. They should have been more challenging to the police, seeking clarity about the actions they intended to take.”

The CHSCP says the cops’ action needs to be addressed by the tame Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). In a statement on the incident, Detective Superintendent Daniel Rutland apologised for the incident which “should have never happened” and was “truly regrettable”. But he added, “We are conscious that the IOPC are still completing their independent investigation, so further comment would be inappropriate at this time.” 

Hackney Stand Up To Racism commented, “The Metropolitan police are very good at apologising for shameful actions. They have had a lot of practice at it. If they are truly sorry for their actions, then the officers involved in this shameful incident must be punished and expelled from the police service. They must now show zero tolerance for racism and sexism in their ranks in deeds rather than words.”

Racism and sexism are endemic in the cops. The slogan “defund the police” has never been more relevant.

  • Protest outside Stoke Newington Police from 4pm, Friday 18th March. 33 Stoke Newington High Street N16
  • Join Stand Up to Racism’s demonstration this weekend. Glasgow and London on Saturday, and in Cardiff on Sunday. For details go here

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