The chief constable of Police Scotland has admitted that the force is institutionally racist, sexist, misogynistic, and discriminatory.
Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority Board on Thursday (25 May), Sir Iain Livingstone said that prejudice within policing was “rightly of great concern” as he insisted that “publicly acknowledging these institutional issues” is essential for championing equality, rooting out discrimination, and creating real change.
It comes after a review into Police Scotland recently uncovered first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia - with some staff reporting they had been “punished” for raising concerns. Addressing these cases, Sir Iain said there was “no place” in Police Scotland for officers who “reject our values and standards”.
There has been significant discussion about ‘institutional’ issues in policing over the past few months, after Baroness Louise Casey branded London’s Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist, sexist, and homophobic” in a damning report into the force. The Casey Review, which was published in March, was commissioned after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving PC Wayne Couzens.
Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley drew criticism when he said he accepted Baroness Casey’s “diagnosis”, but refused to use the word “institutional” - arguing that “the term means different things to different people and has become politicised in recent debate”. Sir Iain’s statement then is believed to be the first of its kind by a police chief, as controversy about policing culture continues to be a topic of debate. Police Scotland is the second largest police force in the UK, about half the size of the Met.
The police leader said he understood that many fear using the term “institutional” because they worry that “it would unfairly condemn dedicated and honourable colleagues”. He added that another concern when using the word is that it suggests “no progress has been made since the 1990s”, when the meaning of institutional racism was set out by Sir William Macpherson “in his report on the appalling murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993”.
However, Sir Iain, who is due to retire on 10 August, insisted that using the word “institutional” does not condemn all of his officers. “Does institutional discrimination mean our police officers and police staff are racist and sexist? No. It absolutely does not.
“I have great confidence in the character and values of our people. I am proud of Police Scotland and I am proud of my colleagues, my officers, and my staff.”
But, he continued: “It is right for me to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination is a reality for Police Scotland. Publicly acknowledging these issues exist institutionally is essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist service.
“Prejudice and bad behaviour within policing, as highlighted by court and conduct cases, various independent reviews and by listening to our own officers and staff over recent years, is rightly of great concern and is utterly condemned.”
Earlier this year, Police Scotland stepped up its vetting procedures in response to the case of David Carrick, who admitted dozens of rape and sexual offences which took place while he was serving as an officer in the Met Police. It also announced on Tuesday (23 May) that, as part of its four-year strategy titled “Policing Together”, a mandatory leadership programme would be rolled out to about 5,000 officers and staff to improve “the existing workplace culture”.