The Metropolitan Police have apologized and paid compensation to an academic for “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language” used by officers about her when she was strip searched.
“What’s that smell? Oh, it’s her panties,” officers at a North East London police station said to each other after Dr. Konstancja Duff was pinned to the ground and her clothes were cut. of rank?” said another.
The Met apologized to Duff, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, after CCTV video capturing the officers’ conversations was disclosed to her as part of a civil action against the force.
Inspector Andy O’Donnell, of the Met’s professional standards directorate, told him: “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely and unreservedly apologize for the sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language used about you and for any discomfort and distress that this could have caused him”. caused
“I hope that the resolution of this claim and this acknowledgment of the impact of what happened that day will allow you to put this incident behind you.”
Duff said: “In every detail, the images supported what I had said in my statements for years and years.” The officers had claimed they had acted professionally, strip-searching her for her own safety because she did not give them her name.
“There was such a barrage of misinformation that they put out that actually, even though it was there and I knew it was false, I almost started to doubt myself,” she said.
“It was such effective gaslighting: ‘We were worried about your mental health, so we had to, for your own good, forcefully strip you naked and pound you.’
“Obviously it wasn’t what they were doing at the time. They were doing it as punishment, they were doing it as intimidation, they wanted to soften me up and get my details.”
Duff was arrested on May 5, 2013 on suspicion of obstructing and assaulting police after attempting to hand a legal advice card to a 15-year-old girl caught in a stop-and-frisk raid in Hackney, charges for which she was later released. acquitted in court.
She was taken to Stoke Newington Police Station, where Sgt. Kurtis Howard, in charge of custody, ordered the search when she refused to co-operate with officers.
In 2018, Howard appeared before a disciplinary panel, which cleared him of serious misconduct. He argued that the search was necessary to assess any risk Duff might pose to herself, with its president concluding that her actions were those of a responsible officer.
CCTV footage now obtained by Duff from the custody area of the police station on the day it was searched shows Howard telling officers to show that “resistance is futile” and to search it “by any means necessary”.
“Treat her like a terrorist,” he says. “I do not mind.”
In a cell, three policewomen bound Duff by the hands and feet, pinned her to the ground and cut her clothes with scissors. Worthless described the ordeal, which left her with a series of visible injuries, including sexual assault.
CCTV footage then shows the officers who searched Duff returning to the reception. An officer asks them, “You didn’t find anything wrong with her, ladies?”
“A lot of hair,” replies one of the police officers. The others laugh.
A minute or so later, as two male officers go through Duff’s possessions, one asks in mock alarm, “Sorry, sorry, what’s that smell?”
“Oh, it’s her panties, okay?” answers his colleague.
Then a female officer returns again from handling Duff. “Ugh, I feel disgusting; I’m going to need a shower,” he says.
“You need to defumigate,” a male officer tells her.
Another officer asks: “Do you have rank?”
“No, it’s not really,” she says.
“He is, his clothes stink,” says another male officer.
“Is it? His body isn’t,” she replies.
The Met did not say whether any officers had faced disciplinary action, but said allegations of misconduct related to the comments had been referred to its professional standards directorate. “This investigation is still ongoing,” he said.
But Duff said individual officers were not the problem. She said the exchanges shown on CCTV exposed “the sexualized teasing culture, the dehumanizing attitude” that was displayed during her strip search. The officers’ taunts about her in the cell, out of sight of CCTV, were worse than what was captured on camera, she said.
“The crucial issue is that racism, misogyny [and] sexual violence, they become normalized in policing,” said Duff, who has written extensively on police abolition policy.
“And the way they treated me, the fact that it’s normal is shown by the way it was approved at all levels of the system for eight years.
“Because the scrutiny is always put on the person who has been subjected to violent policing, looking for something in them that means they deserved it. Any way you have failed to comply, or stood up to them, or resisted, is taken as justification for an escalation of force and violence against you.”
Duff’s case has come to light as the Met finds itself in the spotlight for what critics have described as a culture of institutional misogyny. The rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a Met firearms officer, prosecutions of on-duty officers for rape, and revelations of sexist and racist online chats between officers have led to renewed questions about sexism in the force.
In October, the Met brought in former Whitehall troubleshooter Louise Casey to investigate why leaders had so far failed to solve the problem.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism