A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer has been given a final written warning relating to the strip search of a woman in Lewisham, following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which concluded on 20th December (Tuesday).
At the end of a seven-day misconduct hearing presented by the IOPC, an independent panel found gross misconduct was proven for Police Sergeant Dru Hussey as a strip search which he authorized in May 2020 did not comply with legal requirements and force policy. The final written warning will remain valid for four years.
Our investigation began in May 2020 when we used our power of initiative and asked the MPS to refer the matter to us after video footage of the woman’s arrest was widely shared on social media, and the woman lodged a formal complaint.
We established the woman was arrested on 9 May 2020 after officers from the Territorial Support Group stopped a vehicle she was a passenger in, which was being driven erratically in Lewisham. The driver was arrested and the woman was detained for a drugs search. Force was used when the woman resisted. She was taken to the ground and then arrested for obstructing the drugs search and assaulting police and taken to Lewisham Police Station, where she was strip searched. Nothing was found during the search. A charge of obstructing a drug search was later discontinued.
At the end of our investigation, in March 2021, we directed the force to hold a misconduct hearing for PS Hussey and PC Samantha Ryan, one of the arresting officers who also participated in the strip search. We decided we would present the evidence after the force disagreed with our findings that the officers had cases to answer for gross misconduct.
The panel found PS Hussey failed to inform the woman she was to be strip searched, why or how it would be conducted. Male officers, including PS Hussey, were present during the initial part of the strip search and intermittently throughout. The search was conducted in a cell equipped with CCTV and no effort was made by PS Hussey to inform the woman of this or seek her cooperation with the search. In doing so, the panel found PS Hussey failed to respect the woman’s dignity as an individual or human being. It was noted the woman was in a lonely and vulnerable place and PS Hussey failed to protect and safeguard her rights.
The panel also concluded that PS Hussey did not make an adequate entry on the custody record setting out his rationale for the strip search.
It was determined PS Hussey breached the standards of professional behavior relating to authority, respect and courtesy, orders and instructions, and duties and responsibilities.
During the hearing, it was alleged that PC Ryan used excessive force during the arrest of the woman, that she was disrespectful towards her and that she participated in a strip search which did not comply with the law.
The panel found the case against PC Ryan was not proven, noting the force used during the arrest was reasonable in the circumstances.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said:
“Anyone who is in police custody is entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy. Our investigation found the way the strip search was conducted appeared to have failed to comply with the law, police policy and could be perceived as degrading. Officers never explained to the woman what was happening and her questions were ignored. This incident was highly distressing for her and undermines wider public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service.
“As the officer in charge of the strip search, the independent panel has rightly found that PS Hussey failed in his responsibilities to safeguard her welfare, protect her legal rights and ensure she was treated with dignity and respect.”
During our investigation, we obtained and reviewed Body Worn Video (BWV), CCTV and mobile phone footage, custody records, incident logs, and radio transmissions. We took accounts from other the officers present and a statement from the complainant and obtained independent expert evidence on the use of force by the officers