Over the past two years, the Metropolitan Police in London, which covers Greater London, have strip-searched more than 600 children and young people. More than 95 percent of the minors affected were male, and 58 percent of them were black, according to a report by Britain's Child Welfare Commissioner Rachel de Souza released on Monday. De Souza was "deeply shocked" by the figures.
According to the report, a total of 650 minors between the ages of 10 and 17 were strip-searched between 2018 and 2020. In 23 percent of the cases, an impartial adult was not present, as required by law with few exceptions. In more than half of those affected, there were no further criminal prosecutions - which shows all the more that the actions of the police in most cases are unjustified and unnecessary, warned de Souza.
De Souza said he was "extremely concerned" about the disproportionately high proportion of black people affected. As the British "Guardian" reported, the number rose to 75 percent in 2018 alone, and 58 percent for the period 2018 to 2020 - while the proportion of young people aged ten to 17 in Greater London was only 19 percent. The number of minors searched in this "obtrusive and traumatizing" way has also risen sharply every year, criticized the child protection officer.
De Souza requested the data from London Police after the headline-grabbing case of a 15-year-old black woman falsely suspected of drug possession in 2020 being forced to completely undress in front of female police officers. As the "BBC" reported, the girl was taken from an exam to a medical room at the school, where she also had to expose her intimate parts of the body in front of the officers and even had to remove her sanitary napkin. The officers are said to have known beforehand that she had her period. No drugs were found on her. No teaching staff or other person was present, and the girl's parents were not contacted either.
The case two years ago had deeply traumatized the young people and triggered numerous protests. In March, the police had to apologize formally after an investigation by the child protection agency had reprimanded the "gross misconduct" of those responsible. After her report, De Souza emphasized that she was convinced that the case at the time was not an isolated case, but rather a sign of a "systemic problem" in the Metropolitan Police. Therefore, she now wants to request the same data from all police forces, the "Guardian" reported.
London Police, in response to the new report, stressed that changes had already been introduced to ensure minors were strip searched with "appropriate and respectful treatment". She added that some of the children themselves may be "vulnerable victims of exploitation" by criminals and drug gangs.
The London police were recently shaken by a series of scandals surrounding racism, sexism and misogyny, which caused a massive crisis of confidence. Police Chief Cressida Dick resigned in February.
Sources: AFP, The Guardian, BBC