Another week and yet another damning report on the police. Barely a week on from the Casey Review, the Children’s Commissioner has found that Black children are being repeatedly failed by the police through the use of strip searches. The very people who should be there to protect, are making children feel unsafe. The Commissoner’s report is further evidence of the police disproportionately using search powers against young Black people.
This report shows that Black children are up to 11 times more likely to be strip-searched by police than their white peers, and more than half of the almost-3,000 strip-searches in recent years have taken place without an appropriate adult present. This should never happen.
A year on from the appalling news of Child Q, the police’s systematic use of strip searches is unjustifiable. The horrid reality is that Child Q was not an isolated case. And these cases are not limited to London – it is happening across England and Wales. It is a pattern by the police to use their powers to punish rather than to protect. It is a form of control; and keeping Black children in their place if they even have a thought to misbehave. In the majority of searches, nothing illegal has been found. We can only conclude that police officers use strip searches as a means of control and punishment. The report highlights just how traumatic strip searches can be for children and vulnerable people.
It should shock everyone that a child can be strip searched with no safeguards in place. It’s clear that the reason safeguards aren’t considered is because the child in question is Black. The police must be urgently held to account. There should be a full review of police powers – this isn’t just about holding individual officers to account, although greater accountability for officers that abuse their powers is also needed – this is a systemic problem that needs to be fixed.
Children should be treated as children, valued and respected not left to be humiliated and traumatised by the very people in authority who are meant to keep them safe. This report is yet more evidence of police misuse of power and embedded racism. It must stop now.
Listen to Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation, tell Times Radio’s John Pienaar why strip searching children is policing as punishment.