London mayor Sadiq Khan said Friday he was “extremely concerned” after the Metropolitan Police force revealed that seven more referrals involving strip searches of children had been made to the police watchdog.
The announcement came a day after the same oversight body said it would reinvestigate the Met’s botched initial handling of the murders of four young men by a serial killer.
The London force has been rocked in recent years by a succession of incidents involving its officers, including last year, when a diplomatic protection squad member was jailed for kidnap, rape, and murder.
A crisis of public confidence in the police saw Cressida Dick resign as commissioner in February. She has not yet been replaced.
The voluntary referrals relate to incidents between December 2019 and March 2022, where children aged 14 to 17 were strip-searched by officers in custody or subject to “more intimate searches outside custody,” according to the force.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) has returned two of the referrals to the force to investigate themselves.
The latest referrals come after the watchdog was sent the cases of two teenage girls, known as “Child Q” and “Olivia”, who were strip-searched by officers while they were menstruating.
“It is shocking and deeply disturbing that so many cases of children being strip-searched by the police have been referred to the IOPC,” said a spokesman for Khan.
“The mayor is extremely concerned by these cases and the Met have been asked by City Hall to conduct a review of all strip searches of children to ensure lessons are learned.”
“Child Q” was strip-searched by female officers in 2020 after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis, despite them being aware she was menstruating.
“Olivia”, a 15-year-old with autism, was searched in front of male officers after being accused of robbery. The BBC reported that she later tried to kill herself.
Scotland Yard said procedures had changed, with officers now required to get permission from an inspector and have a conversation with a supervisor before carrying out such a search.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the force was aware of the public concerns about the cases and the effect of such action on young people.