Photography: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Four metropolitan police officers are being investigated for serious misconduct after a 15-year-old black student was searched while at school.
The teenager, known as Child Q, was searched by Met officers in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying marijuana at her East London school.
The intimate search sparked days of protests in Hackney after it emerged that the student had been searched without another adult present and knowing she was menstruating. Her parents were not contacted.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) has confirmed that four Met officers have been notified of serious misconduct in connection with its ongoing investigation into complaints that Child Q was improperly searched.
A spokesperson said: “As with all of our investigations, we continually review evidence and lines of investigation as the investigation progresses. As part of this, matters were identified that required further investigation notices to be delivered to officers.
“Four officers have now been advised that they are being investigated for possible violations of police standards of professional behavior at the serious misconduct level, which does not necessarily mean that disciplinary procedures will be followed.
“Any identified conduct issues and their severity are kept under review and may be changed in light of any evidence collected by the investigation team.”
The IOPC investigation is examining whether legislation, policies and procedures were followed during the child search. “We are reviewing complaints that her mother was not given the opportunity to be present during the search and that there was no other appropriate adult present,” the spokesperson said.
“We are also considering whether the child’s ethnicity played a role in the officers’ decision to search her.”
The search for Child Q took place without another adult present and knowing she was menstruating, according to a security report.
The local review of child protection practice, conducted by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), concluded that the strip search should never have taken place, was unwarranted, and that racism “probably was a factor.”
The police watchdog said it received a voluntary referral from the Met on May 6, 2021. When asked why it took several months between the incident and Met police referring to the IOPC, the force said: “Information was provided to the the child’s family to support any claims they wish to make against the Metropolitan Police Service.
“A report was subsequently received and referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct in May 2021 for investigation.”
The girl had already said that “you can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, scream, cry or just give up” since the search.
During the search, her private parts were exposed and she was forced to remove the sanitary napkin. No drugs were found.
Diane Abbott, Labor MP from Hackney North and Stoke Newington, told the BBC: “I’m glad the IOPC has stepped up the investigation, but the community is very concerned about how long the investigation is taking.”