Imagine you are surrounded by an armed gang. They tie your hands and legs
together, pin you to the ground, and cut off your clothes with scissors.
While grabbing you all over, ripping out your earrings, and hitting your head on the concrete floor, they crack jokes with one another about the benefits of strapless bras.
They call you ‘childish’ for objecting.
That was my experience of being strip searched.
It was May 2013 and I had been arrested for offering a legal advice card to a 15-year-old who was being stopped and searched.
That made me a ‘bleeding-heart lefty’ and ‘some sort of socialist’, according to the sergeant who took me in, and the fact that I then engaged in passive resistance and wouldn’t give the police my details meant some ‘softening up’ was in order – hence the strip search.
At a misconduct hearing this August, a panel appointed by the Metropolitan Police cleared the use of strip search in my case.
Despite a finding by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) that the officer who ordered the search had a case to answer for gross misconduct, the panel threw out the charge against him without even bothering to
The way I was treated was not an aberration, it seems.
But this goes beyond the Met. From 2013 to 2015, 113,000 strip searches were recorded by 13 police forces across England and Wales, including 5,000 strip searches of children aged 17; the other 32 forces did not keep count.
Last week I launched a CrowdJustice campaign to fund a judicial review of the
misconduct panel’s decision.
The panel found it ‘bizarre’ that I used protest tactics in response to my arrest when, in their view, the situation was ‘not political’.
However, when black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people and even Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (hardly a radical ‘lefty’ source) has reported that 27% of stop and searches are conducted without lawful grounds, it is bizarre to pretend that the occupation-style policing of working class communities is anything but political through and through.
We are often told that the rule of law means the police are not above the law.
They are not supposed to behave like an armed gang. That is the crucial difference between a democratic state and a police state – at least in theory.
In practice, however, the Hillsborough inquiry and ongoing spycops revelations
demonstrate the unscrupulous depths to which some forces can go to repress dissent and cover up wrongdoing in their ranks.
For my own part, five years of attempting to engage with the Met’s complaints procedure has shown me just how hard it is to challenge police actions.
From legal aid application forms so complicated that only trained lawyers can fill
them in, to the full year it took to schedule this officer’s misconduct hearing after the IOPC ruled he had a case to answer (apparently there were no rooms available before then), the police complaints system makes it near impossible for the average person to question officers’ actions.
This needs to change – and the only way that can happen is through people power.
To support Koshka’s legal action please visit her CrowdJustice page here. CrowdJustice is a legal crowdfunding site that works to increase access to justice.