A review of Scotland’s police culture has revealed first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia among serving officers.
The control group, set up in 2021, has heard of people being “punished” for raising concerns.
He has also heard that the military’s efforts to improve culture are held back by financial problems and pressure on frontline resources.
One of the women, former firearms officer Rhona Malone, won nearly £1m in damages from the armed forces after an employment tribunal found she had been harassed for raising concerns about sexism.
Although some of them had spoken publicly before, the women felt their stories were lost and there was no measurable change in attitudes towards female staff.
Meanwhile, the forces are also under pressure due to the ongoing investigation into the death of Sheku Bayoh, who was detained by about six police officers.
The investigation is investigating the circumstances surrounding the 31-year-old’s death and whether race was a factor.
Earlier this year, Scotland’s police also stepped up their vetting procedures in response to the case of David Carrick, who pleaded guilty to dozens of rapes and sexual offenses as a Met Police officer.
Bad behavior in sight
An independent review group was set up by Police Scotland two years ago to examine its achievements in equality, diversity, inclusion and human rights.
Her report was released ahead of Thursday’s Scottish Police Board meeting.
It noted the “widespread view” that while discriminatory attitudes are still present in the armed forces, there has been a marked shift over the past decade.
“However, our interviews with both key interviewees and branch staff revealed instances of continued discrimination against minority communities, including first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia,” it added.
They have heard that people have been penalized for raising issues or concerns, including being sidelined in teams or relocated to less convenient locations.
The group said it heard “skepticism and even outright fear” among staff about raising any concern as it could “simply lead to the person being moved and avoiding the problem”.
There have been reports of bad behavior that was known and seen “with the naked eye” without any action being taken, and of a “vicious circle” where affected staff lacked the confidence to raise concerns, co-workers did not speak up and managers took no action.
The report also highlighted unsubstantiated concerns that the professional standards department’s formal processes were taking too long.
Members of the group also found that there was a tendency to jump straight to formal grievance processes without recourse to mediation.
It said this resulted in a “significant administrative burden”.
The report noted problems in several other areas, including:
- Staff did not have time to train due to pressure on frontline resources
- There were too many cultural initiatives that were not put together in practice
- Communication via email or posters was of limited value
- No effective performance management in the last 10 years
- People who are not trained as managers, and advancement is ensured by technical skills and experience
- Lots of outdated rules
- Self-learning referred to as a “tick the box” approach and easy to “work around”
- Skepticism that training is not compulsory
- Ongoing training for supervisors was not sufficient, robust or effective enough to address equality, diversity and inclusion issues
The group also heard significant concerns about the financial investment in the service and the negative impact on infrastructure – including the destruction of the police compound in some areas and the quality of the technology.
The impact of the “fragility” of other public services on local policing was also highlighted.
It has been found that 80% of response time is consumed by welfare issues, often related to mental health, rather than crime.
The group urged Scotland’s police force to consider a number of points during the ongoing work, including streamlining initiatives and being “vigilant” to opposition – particularly with “everything matters” views.
It said the armed forces should avoid over-reliance on diversity organizations to continue their work – as they have heard of the fatigue and re-traumatism of people talking about their own experiences.
The group’s final report is expected to be delivered in 2024.
“Vigilance has never been stronger”
Last year Police Scotland launched a four-year strategy called ‘Policing Together’ to tackle discrimination in the police and community.
A deputy commander in chief has since been appointed to oversee its delivery.
Update in the program, released on Tuesday, announced a mandatory leadership program that will be rolled out to approximately 5,000 officers and staff to improve “the existing workplace culture.”
Dep Ch Con Fiona Taylor, who also leads the work on improving policing culture, said: “As part of our Policing Together program, we invest in providing each police commander with the skills and tools needed to build effective teams that live our values and expand our knowledge and we learn about inclusion.
“Due to the trust and authority of the police in the community, we maintain high standards and through rigorous recruitment, vetting, prevention and handling measures, our vigilance has never been stronger.”