Accusations of racism against the British police are not new. A new study, triggered by a shocking case in London, shows that they are not unfounded.
There are renewed allegations of racial discrimination as well as humiliation against the British police. A report published on Monday by child protection commissioner Rachel de Souza shows that police officers carried out a total of 2,847 body searches on children and young people aged 10 to 17 in England and Wales between 2018 and mid-2022.
In this context, Black children were six times more likely to be controlled – measured by the proportion of the population. In more than half of the cases, no adult confidants were present, and in 95 per cent boys were affected.
De Souza spoke of “evidence of a deeply worrying practice” with “widespread non-compliance” with legal protection measures. Children and young people are being abandoned by those who need to protect them, she criticised.
The investigation was commissioned after a 15-year-old Black student was forced to remove her clothes and searched for drugs at her London school – even though she was on her period. Parents had not been informed and no teachers were present. Drugs were not found.
The Church of England charity responsible, The Children’s Society, stressed that the findings showed that Black children were disproportionately exposed to “this traumatising and intrusive practice”. The charity Runnymede Trust called for police powers to strip-search to be removed. “Negative, bullying encounters with state institutions only breed further mistrust and are the reason why the police are failing our communities,” the organisation stressed. Only a week ago, an enquiry report had accused the London police of being institutionally racist.
In the vast majority of cases (86 per cent), those searched were suspected of having drugs with them, 9 per cent revolve around weapons and 2 per cent around theft. In almost a quarter of the cases, the suspected items were not found.