Oh, it’s her knickers

The police are there to protect you. No wait, not you. Other people. Male people. The clean ones.

The Metropolitan police have apologised 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 knickers,” officers at a north-east London police station said to each other after Dr Konstancja Duff was held down on the floor and her clothes cut off. “Is she rank?” another said.


Apologizing isn’t enough. Compensation isn’t enough. They need to fire people, and hire a lot more women, and put a stop to this kind of dehumanizing shit.

The Met apologised 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.

How sad for the police, that they didn’t get to keep it a secret.

Honest to god shouldn’t they be better trained and supervised than this? They get to have people in their power, as they did here – they should be extra vigilant against dehumanizing people who are helpless in their hands.

Duff said: “In every detail the footage backed up what I had said in my statements for years and years.” Officers had claimed they had acted with professionalism, strip-searching her for her own safety because she would not give them her name.

What? How does “her own safety” come into that?

“It was such an effective gaslighting: ‘We were just concerned for your mental health, that was why we had to – for your own good – forcibly strip you naked and mash you up.’

“It was so obviously not 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 5 May 2013 on suspicion of obstructing and assaulting police after trying to hand a legal advice card to a 15-year-old caught in a stop-and-search sweep in Hackney – allegations she was later cleared of in court. She was taken to Stoke Newington police station, where Sgt Kurtis Howard, in charge of the custody area, ordered the search when she refused to cooperate with officers.

In 2018 Howard appeared before a disciplinary panel, which cleared him of gross misconduct. He argued the search was necessary to assess any risk Duff might pose to herself, and its chair concluded his actions were those of a responsible officer. The CCTV footage now obtained by Duff of the police station custody area on the day she was searched shows Howard telling officers to show her “resistance is futile” and to search her “by any means necessary”.

“Treat her like a terrorist,” he says. “I don’t care.”

Why? Handing someone a legal advice card isn’t at all like terrorism. Why didn’t he care?

In a cell, three female officers bound Duff by her hands and feet, pinned her to the floor and cut her clothes off with scissors. Duff described the ordeal, which left her with a number of visible injuries, as like a sexual assault.

Duff’s case has come to light as the Met finds itself under 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 serving officers for rape, and revelations of sexist and racist online chats between officers have led to renewed questions about sexism in the force.

Which get drowned out by all the blather about men who identify as women.

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