Police Scotland’s chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone has admitted that the force is institutionally racist and discriminatory.
Sir Iain, who is due to retire in August, said behaviour in the force was “rightly of great concern” after a review published yesterday (24 May) uncovered first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia by serving officers.
In an extensive statement commenting on the review, he said: “Police Scotland has grown into an organisation known to be compassionate, values-based, and highly competent. It is well regarded nationally, extremely well regarded internationally, but I know it can improve, must improve.
“However, it is right for me, the right thing for me to do as chief constable, to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist. Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory.
“Publicly acknowledging these institutional issues exist is essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist service. It is also critical to our determination to lead wider change in society.”
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The review was set up in 2021 after concerns were raised about people being punished for reporting unacceptable behaviour, and the initial findings were published earlier this year.
A number of women had already featured in a BBC Newsnight report with allegations of a toxic, ‘boys’ club’ workplace culture at all levels in the force.
Former firearms officer Rhona Malone took Police Scotland to a tribunal in 2021, a case that revealed emails from senior officers discussing whether women should be placed on duty together and calling one female investigator “a wee lassie”.
Malone won almost £1 million in compensation at the tribunal, which upheld claims of victimisation.
The review found that “interviews with both key interviewees and divisional staff revealed instances of ongoing discrimination against minoritised communities, including first-hand accounts of racism, sexism, and homophobia”.
It added that it heard “scepticism and even outright fear” among staff who wanted to raise concerns, with reports that this could “just lead to the person being moved and the issue being avoided”.
The review also highlighted a number of HR and management issues that needed to be addressed, including:
- Staff had no time for training because of pressures on front-line resourcing, an issue recently highlighted elsewhere by the Police Federation for England and Wales.
- There were too many initiatives aimed at improving the culture, but these were not joined up in practice.
- Managers were promoted on technical skills and experience rather than being trained to manage people.
- Self-learning is seen as a “tick-box” approach that is easy to work around, and training is not mandatory.
- There was not enough training for people in supervisory rules on equality, diversity and inclusion.
Sir Iain said that “injustice and discrimination are insidious wrongs with deep roots in history and our work to address institutional discrimination will and must continue beyond me as Chief Constable, beyond any individual”.
“Our success, the success of policing in Scotland, will be measured by the improved experiences of our officers and staff, and of all the communities, all our fellow citizens, who we serve.”
The Scottish Police Federation, which represents 98% of police officers in the country, said in a statement: “SPF has heard the chief constable’s statement and the rationale for making it. If there are processes, policies, attitudes or behaviours which amount to discrimination in relation to racism, sexism or misogyny, then we will work with the service to eradicate them.”
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