Four police officers are being investigated after a strip search was carried out on a 15-year-old black schoolgirl.
The Metropolitan Police constables have each been served with gross misconduct notices in connection with the incident, which happened in December 2020.
Known as Child Q, the teenager was searched by two female officers at a school in east London, without any other adults present and with the knowledge that she was on her period.
“Four constables have now been advised that they are being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct,” the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said.
However, it added that this “does not necessarily mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow”.
The police watchdog began its investigation in May last year and is examining whether legislation, policies and procedures were followed during the strip search of the child.
“We are looking at complaints that her mother was not given the opportunity to be present during the strip search, and that there was no other appropriate adult present,” it added.
“We are also considering whether the child’s ethnicity played a part in the officers’ decision to strip search her.”
If the officers are found to have breached policing standards, they could be dismissed from the force.
Racism ‘likely to have been an influencing factor’
Despite the incident taking place almost two years ago, it only came to light in March 2022 after a safeguarding report was published.
The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review stated two female officers conducted the strip search, in which the schoolgirl’s intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel.
It found the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified, and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.
Scotland Yard said school staff had called police after they became concerned the girl “smelled strongly of cannabis and may have been in possession of drugs”.
The force said the child’s bag and clothing were both searched by the school, and two female officers conducted a further search, where no drugs were found.
The case has sparked outrage from members of the public, with days of protests taking place in Hackney back in March.
Child Q has since launched legal action against the Metropolitan Police and her school in relation to the incident.