This month, the Met apologised to a child they strip-searched two years ago after wrongly suspecting her of carrying cannabis. She was on her period and did not have an adult present. But we’ve had apologies before and it’s taken two years to even wring this out of the Met.
In Parliament, I secured and led an Urgent Question asking the Government how they plan to address these issues and prevent such abuses from happening in future. There is no apology that could atone for the perverse and racist degradation of Child Q, only action to ensure no child has to endure what she went through again.
This comes as the latest in a long string of racist and misogynistic incidents within the Met. The first step in addressing an issue is admitting it exists. I was therefore disappointed that the Government chose to delay justice by suggesting it was unclear whether this was a one-off or part of a bigger pattern. They continue to refuse to acknowledge institutional racism in policing, let alone spell out a plan to address it. In the same week they did this, we got a clearer picture of the scale of this issue.
An FOI request revealed that the Met strip searched 5,279 children in the past 3 years – nearly 5 children a day. 75% of the children strip searched were from ethnic minority backgrounds. 16 of them were aged 10-12. What’s it going to take for acknowledgement that what happened to Child Q is not an isolated incident but part of a structural problem. It’s not just that these issues exist, it’s that those in a position to do something about them are reluctant to discuss and expose them. This month, the Daniel Morgan inquiry concluded that “the MPS has often shown a reluctance to examine, admit and learn from past mistakes and failures”, another reminder that we will not address these issues without improving accountability and transparency in policing.
That’s why Labour Black women MPs issued a joint statement calling on the Home Secretary to appoint a new Met Commissioner who acknowledges the depth of this issue and will take proportionate action to address it and restore confidence in the police, which is at an all-time low.
Above all, we must not let the Government off the hook for failing to put in place the things that we know would cut crime: whether it’s reversing cuts and investing in youth services, addressing school exclusions, or taking a public health approach to drugs and violent crime.