Community anger over police strip search of schoolgirl | News

LONDON:

London’s black community expressed anger and outrage last week after a report by the Safeguarding Children Partnership revealed that a 15-year-old schoolgirl, wrongly accused of possessing cannabis, was humiliated after a strip search by Met Police officers while she was menstruating.

The incident, which happened in December 2020, was only published this month by the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP). The review noted that the ‘traumatic’ search took place at Hackney Girls’ School in east London, without another adult present and without her parents being told.

The CHSCP report said the impact on the high school student – referred to as ‘Child Q’ – was “profound” and the repercussions “evident and ongoing”.

Family members described her as having gone from a ‘carefree girl’ to a ‘shy recluse’, who barely speaks, self-harms and needs therapy.

The teachers told the review that Child Q smelled strongly of cannabis and after their unsuccessful search of his property they contacted the Safer Schools police officer but he was not on site and recommended to call the police and ask for a female officer to attend.

Police officers arrived at the school and female officers conducted the strip search in the medical room. The teachers remained outside the rooms, while no suitable adults were inside.

The review, however, found that school staff had ‘insufficient focus on Child Q’s protection needs’ and should have defied the police and sought clarification of their intended actions. The COVID-19 restrictions at the time were also found to have “hindered effective communication” between school staff and the Safer Schools Officer.

Six prominent black MPs, including Diane Abbott of Labour, in whose constituency the incident occurred, have expressed anger over the teenager’s humiliating strip search during which the review says , parts of her body were exposed and she was asked to remove it. sanitary napkin during the test.

A statement posted to Twitter and signed by MPs Diane Abbott, Marsha deCordova, Dawn Butler, Kate Osamor, Kim Johnson and Bell Ribeiro Addy said:

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“We wish to state our collective shock and outrage at the report of a 15-year-old black girl subjected to a strip search by police while at school. Police and school should be places of safety for young people, which makes this incident all the more reprehensible.

“As black women, this story is particularly resonant, because the sad reality is that it could have been any of us in our youth. We stand in solidarity with the victim and his family at this difficult time. No parent would ever send their child to school expecting to be strip searched.

“The fact that this can happen highlights the deep-seated biases that are still present in parts of our institutions, as well as the work that needs to be done to ensure that the police treatment of young people is both proportionate and sensitive.

“There are clear and serious safeguard issues arising from this case that need to be addressed, but we must not ignore the role that classism, sexism and racism likely played in the violation of this young girl’s rights.

“Unfortunately, this is the latest in a series of serious revelations about the unacceptable behavior of police officers on duty. The Home Secretary must put an end to the scourge of institutional racism and sexism in the Metropolitan Police at the heart of the choice of the next commissioner, and urgently restore the principle of policing with consent.

Separately, MP Diane Abbott has written to Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, the Borough Commander of Hackney and Tower Hamlet, expressing her disgust that this incident could have happened on his watch.

In her letter, she said: ‘I note the findings of the safeguard report which cite racism as a factor in this strip search. Specifically, the report notes the “adultification bias,” in which black children are perceived to be older than they are. This incident demonstrates that this bias is present in Hackney.

“I am increasingly concerned about the actions of officers under your jurisdiction. In light of these developments, I request an urgent meeting with you and your leadership team to discuss how vital improvements can be made. »

The Metropolitan Police have since issued an apology and admitted the incident “should never have happened”, and also confirmed that the Independent Office for Police Conduct is currently investigating the matter.

Det. Supt. Dan Rutland of the Met’s Eastern Central Command said: ‘We recognize that the findings of the safeguard review reflect that this incident should never have happened. This is truly regrettable and on behalf of the Met Police I would like to apologize to the child involved, his family and the wider community.

Meanwhile, two public protests were held over the weekend outside Stoke Newington Police Station, which drew hundreds of protesters, to show solidarity with Child Q. The protests were organized by ‘Hackney Cop Watch” and “Stand Up to Racism” Hackney Branch.

Brandon D. James