A philosophy professor has received compensation from the Metropolitan Police over ‘sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language’ used by officers.
Dr Konstancja Duff was arrested as she attempted to offer legal advice to a 15-year-old teenager during a stop-and-search in Hackney, east London, in May 2013.
After she was taken to a Stoke Newington station, police held her down on the floor and ripped her clothes off when she refused to co-operate.
As part of her longstanding civil suit against the force, the philosophy professor at the University of Nottingham obtained CCTV footage showing officers calling her ‘rank’ and poking fun at the amount of hair on her body.
In video shared with The Guardian, Sergeant Kurtis Howard, who was in charge of the custody area, can be heard telling officers to ‘bend her arm’ and ‘put their back into it’.
He then orders them to search her ‘by any means necessary’ and ‘treat her like a terrorist’.
After the academic was strip-searched by three female officers in a cell, the clip shows police at the reception desk, mocking her body hair and ‘smelly knickers’.
As two policemen went through her things, one said: ‘Sorry, sorry, what’s that smell?’
His colleague replied: ‘Oh, it’s her knickers, yeah?’
As an officer is seen going through Dr Duff’s belongings, another can be heard saying to her colleague: ‘You need defumigating.’
A co-worker then asks: ‘Was she rank?’ A female officer in the room responds: ‘No, she is not actually.’
But a male colleague hits back: ‘She is, her clothes stink.’
A female officer added: ‘Is it? Her body isn’t.’
Video showed how after the search, a policeman had asked: ‘Didn’t find anything untoward on her, ladies?’
One of the female officers replied: ‘A lot of hair.’
Recounting the traumatising experience, Dr Duff told the newspaper she was pinned on the floor by three officers who tied her legs together and cut her clothes off with scissors.
‘The kind of overwhelming memory of that, as well as being really scared, was just the kind of physical pain of it,’ she said.
‘When they had me naked, they were grabbing my breasts and they pulled a piercing out of my ear, and they were like “let’s see if she’s got any more” and they stuck their hand between my legs.’
Initially, officers claimed they had acted with professionalism, strip-searching Dr Duff for her own safety because she would not give them her name.
And in 2018, Seargeant Howard, who appeared before a disciplinary panel, was cleared of gross misconduct.
He argued the search was necessary to assess any risk she might pose to herself, and its chair concluded his actions were those of a responsible officer.
But the professor revealed that the Metropolitan Police had withheld the footage from her while they had been investigating her complaint.
She said: ‘All the things I had to do in my life were put on hold. I don’t think that what happened to me was unusual and I’m special.
‘I think police routinely use these kinds of tactics, and I’m in the lucky position to do something about it.’
Dr Duff, who was studying for a masters in performance at the Royal College of Music, says she was even forced to postpone her final piano recital as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks from the trauma of her arrest.
She was charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer and one charge of obstructing a police officer in relation to the incident, but was acquitted of all charges in court.
In November, the Metropolitan Police settled a claim with the professor for the way she was treated for an undisclosed amount.
A spokesperson for the force told Metro.co.uk: ‘We have sincerely apologised to the complainant for the language used while she was in custody and any distress caused.
‘Following the conclusion of the civil claim, allegations of misconduct relating to these comments were referred to our Directorate of Professional Standards and are currently being investigated.’
They confirmed that the investigation into the incident remains ongoing.
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