06 April 2023
Young people are seeking reassurance that policing in London better reflects their needs. Too often their experiences suggest that there is a breakdown of trust between young people and Met officers they encounter. They feel that police in their communities have inadequate mental health training and skills to respond appropriately and empathetically to their diverse needs.
This is particularly acute where young people are neurodiverse, and autistic. Their characteristics are often misunderstood, causing avoidable stress and situations escalating. This is a significantly greater concern when stop and search powers extend to strip and search on vulnerable young people more generally.
Our Youth Board were grateful that Green London Assembly Member, Caroline Russell consulted with them extensively on their concerns. She put their questions directly to the Mayor of London at his March Question Time.
Caroline Russell said:
“Even this year, two children a week are still being subjected to intrusive and traumatising strip searches.
“Baroness Casey’s review noted a deep mistrust from Black Londoners of the Met resulting from years of over-policing and under-protection which the practice of strip searching children continues to fuel.
“It’s so worrying that the youth board are spending their time thinking about ways to protect themselves and their families from the impact of a police power that even the Met Commissioner has described as “misused” and “overused”.”
Caroline also secured commitments from the Mayor to look at the suggestions from the youth board to mitigate the impact of interactions with the police. These include:
- updating the Met’s advice to Londoners experiencing stop and search to specifically support neurodiverse people
- having two appropriate adults during strip and intimate search to better protect young people
- and improved aftercare for young Londoners and their families following the invasive and traumatising experience of strip search
Our Youth Board is also calling on the Mayor to give further detail in the responses that he gave to the Chamber on the following:
- They understand that police officers have annual training around working with young people with neurodiversity, but how do we know that the training is effective and implemented properly?
- They understand that sometimes a strip search might be necessary if a young person happens to be carrying a weapon or drugs, but how can we ensure this is a power that is not overused? There is a concern that underlying racism causes an unjustified level of strip searches on black young people. How can we ensure racism does not encourage unfair strip searches?
- Can a more robust process be in place before a strip search takes place? There needs to be more than just a ‘suspicion’ that a young person is carrying something, the evidence needs to be more substantial.
We look forward to pursuing young people’s demands for change with City Hall and with the new Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s team.
A video of Caroline Russell’s full exchange with the Mayor can be seen here