Officers who strip searched black schoolgirl should face gross misconduct charges, Sadiq Khan says

The mayor of London has called for police officers who strip-searched a black schoolgirl while she was on her period to be charged with gross misconduct.

A safeguarding report found that racism "was likely to have been an influencing factor" in the decision to carry out the "traumatic" search in 2020 at the girl's school, without another adult present.

It said teachers called police to the 15-year-old's school, where they conducted the strip search in which her intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to remove a sanitary towel.

Mr Khan wrote to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after reading the report with "dismay and disgust".

He wrote: "I understand that in line with statutory guidance, allegations of discrimination would normally be considered at the level of gross misconduct rather than misconduct."

Smell of cannabis

Mr Khan said the sole reason for the search was the smell of cannabis, which had previously been addressed by the IOPC, the College of Policing and City Hall's Action Plan, published in November 2020.

Under that plan, the IOPC recommends that the Metropolitan Police ensure that officers do not rely solely on the smell of cannabis when deciding to stop and search someone and use "multiple objective factors" before making that decision.

Officers who strip searched black schoolgirl should face gross misconduct charges, Sadiq Khan says

'Just a child'

The 15-year-old girl, referred to as Child Q in the safeguarding review, said: "All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible.

"I was held responsible for a smell... but I'm just a child."

Mr Khan wrote that "incidents such as those experienced by Child Q, not only foster distrust in the Met but actively hamper any efforts to police by consent".

He said that Londoners "rightly expect their police service to act with the utmost integrity at all times".

"This case has understandably caused widespread concern amongst the public and it is important that all allegations are thoroughly investigated, and that all relevant sources of information are taken into account," he added.

Gross misconduct, defined by the government as "theft, physical violence, gross negligence, or serious insubordination" can dismiss an employee with immediate effect, if found guilty.

According to police regulations, gross misconduct means a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour that is so serious as to justify dismissal.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "This was a distressing incident which should not have happened. We are in touch with the school in question, where staff are taking steps to support the child involved and her family.

"Schools should be places where pupils feel safe and protected, which is why we have strengthened our safeguarding guidance and extended it to all schools and post-16 settings - staff should receive regular safeguarding training to improve their confidence in managing sensitive situations."