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Koshka Duff Interview: How I Finally Got An Apology From The Police

This article contains a graphic description of a strip search, which may be triggering for some. 

Dr Konstancja Duff, who goes by Koshka, is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham. In 2013, she was detained for offering a legal advice card to a Black teenager who had been stopped and searched by the police. Once in custody, she was subject to a degrading strip search while handcuffed, during which her clothes were cut off with scissors, and officers were instructed to “treat her like a terrorist.” 

In CCTV footage that Koshka managed to obtain years after her arrest, police officers could be heard using misogynistic language, including asking if Koshka was “rank,” describing her as “disgusting,” and making comments about the smell of her underwear. 

In January 2022 – nine years after her arrest – Scotland Yard finally apologised for the “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language,” used by police officers about Koshka. This is her story, as told to GLAMOUR…

It was a quiet, sunny evening, and I was sitting at a picnic bench tutoring an A-level Philosophy student. Kids of all ages were hanging out, chatting and playing on the nearby basketball court.

Suddenly police ran onto the estate and targeted two young people in – what looked to me like – a stop and search operation. I was aware of the problems of stop and searches and was concerned that the police had gone straight for the Black kids while ignoring me and my student, who was also white.  

I got involved because they had surrounded a kid who was clearly terrified and calling for his mum. He was saying, “You can search me I just want my mum to be here.”

As well as trying to help practically by making sure the young person knew his rights, I felt it was important for someone to show they cared about his welfare – so he didn’t feel alone. I attempted to give him a legal advice card but within moments the police had grabbed me. I was in shock at how things had escalated out of nowhere. I went limp as a form of passive resistance because I felt what the police were doing was completely wrong. 

I was taken to Stoke Newington police station, where I was told I was going to be strip-searched. I was pinned to the floor of a cell by three officers. I had my hands cuffed behind my back, my legs tied together, and they cut off my clothes with scissors.  

They also ripped out my earrings and touched my breasts and between my legs – and while they were doing that I could hear them talking with male officers who were standing at the open door.  

My most overwhelming memory is of the physical pain of it, how the metal handcuffs were cutting into my wrists and the officers kept jerking them around behind my back while kneeling on me with their full weight. 

I remember one of them cracking a joke about the benefits of strapless bras when they had cut off my vest top and were deciding whether to cut my underwear. The only justification I was given at the time for them doing all this to me was, “We need to find out who you are.”

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