Women in the United Kingdom may now be strip-searched by any person who identifies as female, regardless of their birth sex, raising concerns on trust in the police.
In the United Kingdom, female suspects are now allowed to be strip-searched by transgender police officers, meaning biological males who identify as females. These biologically female suspects may also be accused of a hate crime if they object to undergoing the invasive search.
The Daily Mail blew the whistle on new guidelines issued to chief officers that directs them to "recognize status of transgender colleagues from the moment they transition, considered to be, the point at which they present in the gender with which they identify."
"Thus, once a Transgender colleague has transitioned, they will search persons of the same gender as their own lived gender," the guidelines, which were quietly issued by the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) in December 2021, commanded.
The guidelines added that it may be "advisable" to replace the officer carrying out the search if the suspect objects, however, "If the refusal is based on discriminatory views, consideration should be given for the incident [to] be recorded as a non-crime hate incident unless the circumstances amount to a recordable crime."
Since the new guidelines were quietly issued in December of last year, it only came to light after Cathy Larkman looked into it. Larkman has been a police officer for more than 30 years and became superintendent before retiring last year.
Larkman, who is now 54, became concerned about the "declining trust women had in the police" after several scandals including hte abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer. In October 2021, while responding to women's concerns over how they had no option over the sex of the officer searching them, Larkman wrote a letter to the College of Policing, the Police Federation and the NPCC to clarify whether this was truly the case.
Larkman, who is supported by the Women's Rights Network campaign group, was aware that strip-searches must be carried out by an officer of the same sex as the suspect. But she felt "absolutely gobsmacked" when the NPCC released the new guidance to her last week.
"The more I read it, the more shocked I was. This is a devastating blow to women's trust in the police," Larkman said, as reported by Faithwire. "Women are not even an afterthought in this guidance - they are completely non-existent. Everything is geared towards the sensitivities of the officer doing the searching."
Larkman, who in her career had commanded more than 500 officers at the South Wales Police branch, argued, "They claim they are trying to be inclusive. But this isn't inclusive of women and it doesn't respect their sex."
Larkman also expressed concerns about how the new guidelines actually threaten women's rights to their own dressing rooms and other single-sex spaces. She described the NPCC's "talk about reducing violence among women and girls" As mere "hollow words," accusing them of having "no concern for women here whatsoever."