Our children are being failed by the state institutions there to protect them. It is inconceivable that, in 2023, we are reading a report advising police officers to consider “what can I do to keep this child safe”. That is their job.
Less than a week after Baroness Casey’s scathing report into the Metropolitan Police which unequivocally, once again, concluded that the Met is institutionally racist, the findings of this report are even harder to absorb. Black children are 6 times more likely to be strip searched, and over half of strip searches result in no further action. The numbers in the report refer to children being forced to expose their bodies in inappropriate spaces, often without an appropriate adult present, under the ‘protection’ of a body which we know has lost the trust of the nation. This report highlights that officers are often unable to justify the necessity of strip-searching, nor can they report on the safeguarding impact on the child concerned. Quite the contrary. It also confirms that our policing crisis is not just confined to London, it is national.
Minoritised people have repeatedly borne the brunt of grave misuses of police powers for generations. It is shameful that even our children are not extended protection by the police, but this is sadly not news. Despite the ongoing and unresolved concerns about the use of the police’s existing powers, regrettably, Casey’s report still recommended that frontline and community policing be increased. This report is further evidence that any extension of police powers or presence must not happen in the current context.
We are steadfast in our position that the power of police to strip search children should be revoked, and that police officers have no routine place in our children’s schools. In exceptional cases where this must occur, the safeguarding of the children in question must be the number one priority. We should not have to remind officers of that. Our communities deserve a fair and reliable police service which operates with consent and trust. We do not consent to the violent, traumatic and discriminatory policing we are subjected to, let alone our children.
As the harrowing case studies used in the report show, children build perceptions about who, if anyone, is supporting, safeguarding and nurturing them. Negative, bullyish, encounters with state institutions only breeds further distrust and sits at the heart of why policing is failing our communities. Our children need to be supported to believe they can achieve anything they want to in this life. We know their experiences couldn’t be further from this.