England’s Children’s Commissioner on Monday expressed concern about the extent of London police’s use of strip searches of minors: 650 in two years and mostly black teenagers.
Following riots sparked by a full search of a 15-year-old black teenager in 2020, children’s rights commissioner Rachel de Souza asked Scotland Yard for statistics on the matter.
Between 2018 and 2020, about 650 youths aged 10 to 17 were subjected to strip searches, according to figures released on Monday. 58% of them were described as black by the police and over 95% were boys.
In 23% of cases, the search took place without the presence of a third adult, as required by law, with the exception of emergency cases.
More than half of these searches failed to result in prosecution, leading the Children’s Commissioner to believe they may not be “justified or necessary in all cases”.
Rachel de Souza said she was “deeply shocked” by the number of children who “are subjected to this compulsive and traumatic practice every year” and “deeply concerned” by the ethnic disparities that have been exposed.
In response, the London Police said they were “moving rapidly in their work” to ensure that children who are subjected to these intrusive methods are “properly and respectfully treated” and highlighted the changes already made.
The issue arose in the United Kingdom following a 2020 search of a black teenager in her school’s infirmary.
This was done by two female police officers without the presence of a third adult and while menstruating. Wrongly suspected of hiding cannabis, the young girl was deeply traumatized by the case, which sparked several demonstrations.
In March, a Child Protective Services report concluded that such a search “never” should have been carried out and that “racism (intentional or not) was likely a factor in the decision” to carry it out.
Tied to the idea of consensus with the population, the London police were shaken by a series of high-profile scandals that led to a crisis of confidence and the resignation of their chief, Cressida Dick, who was replaced by a former police chief of British counterintelligence. Terrorism Mark Rowley.