The two female officers involved in the strip-search of a young black schoolgirl in Hackney have been moved to desk duties, senior officers have confirmed.
Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, Hackney Police commander, told an online community meeting on Wednesday evening that the pair had been moved to desk duties, which took place last week.
It came in response to repeated questions as to why the officers have not been immediately suspended or sacked.
Barnett said: “The officers that have conducted the search have been removed from frontline duties and they are working in another part of this BCU [Basic Command Unit], they are not on the frontline duties.”
The Metropolitan Police have already apologised for the incident in 2020 and an inquiry is being conducted by the Office for Police Conduct. The 15-year-old black student known to the public as Child Q, was menstruating at the time of the search – which followed suspicion by teachers that she was in possession of cannabis – there was no appropriate adult present. Hackney Council has called on the headteacher of the school – which has not been publicly identified – to resign.
Wednesday’s meeting was moved online, with 250 attendees, after the intended venue was made unavailable; it followed protests over the weekend when hundreds of people marched through Hackney. It was confirmed there will be weekly meetings with local officers as the investigation continues.
One of the attendees questioned the panel at the start of the meeting: “When are you going to…accept that you have a fundamental leadership problem in the Met police?”. “Apologies from the Met fall on deaf ears because they’re absolutely worthless” he continued.
Many community members voiced their outrage at “worthless apologies” by police. Many speakers interrupted the meeting to call for reform of the police.
The safeguarding review report into the incident also suggested that racism had been a factor in the search, an issue raised by several members of the public at the meeting. One audience member interrupted Barnett to ask: “Do you see an issue here with there being three white males on a panel to discuss an issue that happened to a young black female?”
Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland told the meeting: “I’m not going to go as far as to say that no white kid in London would this have happened to, but…I understand your concerns”.
At the London Assembly Police and Crime committee also on Wednesday senior Met officers admitted that the Child Q affair may not have been an “isolated matter” and that they are reviewing the safeguarding training of their officers in schools.
Sem Moema, London Assembly member for North East London asked the Met for data regarding strip searches for the central east Basic Command Unit and throughout London. She said this was a “racialised incident” which is “a real concern not just to black residents of Hackney but to black Londoners as a whole and actually London as a whole”. She said: “Child Q was not touched by an officer, but she was definitely violated”.
Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said the Met had accepted the findings of the safeguarding review and takes seriously issues of “inappropriate adultification of Black children” and “what that might mean in policing”.
Ms Rolfe told Assembly Members that the Met has “refreshed” the information it gives officers and that it has “reinforced” the policy that an appropriate adult must be present when police are searching a child under the age of 18
She said the Met must ensure officers are “culturally aware and competent” and that this must be addressed by “building stronger relationships with our communities and being very open with our data about the use of coercive powers”. It was “unusual” for officers to respond to such incidents in schools and that it is usually the job of specially trained schools officers to intervene.