The sergeant’s actions breached the standards of professional behaviour, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said
A Surrey Police sergeant authorised a strip search of a female detainee with male police officers present, which breached the standards of professional behaviour.
The sergeant, who has not been named, will be given management advice for authorising and ordering the strip search of the woman in December last year.
The IOPC said the sergeant admitted misconduct and was found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour by authorising a strip search of the woman on December 21, 2019.
This contravened PACE Code C – requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects in police custody – which states a police officer carrying out a strip search must be the same sex as the detainee.
The IOPC’s investigation found that the sergeant believed the female detainee needed to be searched immediately for her own safety and the safety of staff and other officers.
The sergeant reportedly used the female detainee’s aggressive behaviour as the rationale for the necessity of an immediate search. The IOPC said he felt that officers could not wait for a female officer to assist the strip search.
The IOPC said it analysed CCTV and radio transmissions and obtained an account from the sergeant and witness statements from multiple police officers.
The investigation ended in May this year and, with the IOPC’s final report provided to Surrey Police, found that the sergeant had a case to answer for misconduct.
Surrey Police agreed and organised the misconduct proceedings last week and has since apologised for the sergeant’s actions. The force said it has also reviewed its policy and practice.
IOPC regional director Sarah Green said:
“Our investigation was completed thoroughly and quickly. Strip searching a member of the opposite sex in this way was in breach of the standards expected of a police officer who has been rightly sanctioned as a result.”
‘We are sorry’
Surrey Police’s deputy chief constable Nev Kemp said:
“This case was referred to our Professional Standards Department following a regular performance review which I hope is reassuring to the public that we constantly monitor our own standards and hold ourselves to account.
“We are sorry the woman was put in a position where she was searched by officers of the opposite sex, which is clearly against long-standing best practice. It should not happen.
“Officers undergo a thorough training programme and have up to two months of mentor support when starting in custody to ensure our high standards are met.