Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers are quitting Police Scotland because of the way they are treated, a damning new report has warned.
Female and LGBTI members of the force are victims of “deeply” concerning discrimination, according to an independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct in policing.
The 488-page review by Dame Elish Angiolini said police and community attitudes had “not changed as much as they should have” since the 1999 publication of the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder.
The review, commissioned by the Scottish Government, also called for deaths in custody to be treated with the same urgency as homicides.
Much of the evidence presented to me by some serving officers from Black and Asian minority ethnic communities was a chastening reminder that in the police service and in the wider community attitudes have not changed as much as they should have since 1999 – the year of the Macpherson report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – or as much as we may like to believe that they have.”
Dame Elish Angiolini
‘Officers leaving because of the culture…’
Evidence heard by Dame Elish found that although there had been a drive to recruit officers from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority (Bame) backgrounds, the experience of some recruits had led them to leave the profession, often within three to five years.
“The review was told during a focus group that ethnic minority officers were leaving because of the culture of the police and the way they were treated,” Dame Elish wrote in the report.
“I was also deeply concerned to hear about the experiences of officers and staff about discrimination experienced by female police officers and staff and by LGBTI officers and staff.”
‘Very worrying evidence’
Dame Elish, a former Lord Advocate, recommended that a review of equality in the police should be carried out by an independent organisation in light of the “very worrying evidence” she had received.
She accepted that the Police Scotland Executive team acknowledged “the presence of discriminatory attitudes and behaviours” within the force but called for action to be taken to look at the issue more closely.
The review also recommended all officers and staff undertake training on unconscious bias, equality legislation and diversity, which would be updated throughout their careers.
“Much of the evidence presented to me by some serving officers from Black and Asian minority ethnic communities was a chastening reminder that in the police service and in the wider community attitudes have not changed as much as they should have since 1999 – the year of the Macpherson report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – or as much as we may like to believe that they have,” Dame Elish wrote.
The Macpherson inquiry found that the Metropolitan Police investigation into the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence had been marred by a “combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.
Officer felt ‘tricked’ into joining force
Dame Elish’s report said some Police Scotland officers and staff experienced discrimination, “internally and externally”, in the course of their duties. Many such incidents went unreported and there was a reluctance of Bame officers to come forward in case they were characterised as “playing the race card”.
One officer told the review that they had to raise a formal complaint as a result of racial abuse received from colleagues, but they had received no support or protection.
The individual felt “tricked” into joining the service in order to “tick a box”.
During a focus group discussion, officers were asked if they would recommend a police career to others from a Bame background. All but one stated that they would not recommend joining the police.
The officer who said that they would recommend joining to someone explained that they were hopeful of change and people from an ethnic minority background were needed in the service; it was a great job full of satisfaction but the system and culture needed to change.
On the subject of promotion, that officer said it was “easier for a person from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background to become a doctor than to become a sergeant in the police”.
‘Still underlying sexism’
Some contributors believed that racism was more prevalent within the service than within the community and that racist attitudes are also imported with some new recruits.
One voluntary group that contributed to the review suggested there should be greater Bame representation within the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
There was some change but it was slow and there was still underlying sexism and differing degrees of machismo culture in different parts of the service; some male officers struggled to cope with having a female manager.”
Dame Elish Angiolini
There had been positive changes at the top of Police Scotland when it came to equality but there was still progress to be made at sergeant and inspector level, it was found.
The report said: “There was some change but it was slow and there was still underlying sexism and differing degrees of machismo culture in different parts of the service; some male officers struggled to cope with having a female manager.”
Deaths in custody
The Scottish LGBTI Police Association told the review that their members could be treated differently and said there was a lack of understanding with supervisors.
“It was “pot luck” if you got supportive colleagues on your team. Supervisors might be scared of saying the wrong thing,” the report said.
The review also looked at the handling of deaths in custody, a particularly emotive subject for the family of Sheku Bayoh – a Fife man originally from Sierra Leone who died after being restrained by police.
Aamar Anwar, the lawyer for Mr Bayoh’s family, contributed to the review, which made no comments about the circumstances of Mr Bayoh’s death, given that it is the subject of a public inquiry.
But the report said custody deaths should be investigated with the same urgency as homicides and grieving families should have access to free legal advice.
The review also recommended that the Police Investigations Review Commissioner (Pirc) should be made accountable to Holyrood and take responsibility for senior officer misconduct proceedings.
Pirc should be redesignated as a commission comprising one police investigations and review commissioner and two deputy commissioners, with none of these positions to be held by a former police officer.
The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, says preliminary assessment of misconduct allegations made against senior police officers should be transferred from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) to Pirc.
It also recommended Pirc take on responsibility for the key stages of senior officer misconduct proceedings, and that it should have the power to recommend suspension of a senior officer if he or she believes that not suspending the officer may prejudice an effective misconduct investigation.
It also said former police officers facing misconduct allegations should face investigation to tackle the “perception” that some escape justice by retiring or resigning.
‘A number of wider issues raised’
David Crichton, interim chairman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), said: “There are a number of wider issues raised in the report for Police Scotland, the authority and Scottish Government to consider, not least in respect of equality and diversity within policing.
“It is essential that the policing workforce is reflective of the communities it serves and that training, development, deployment, promotion and complaint practices support that aim.
“In August, the authority considered in detail at its public board meeting Police Scotland’s approach to workforce inclusion, equality and diversity.
“Whilst there is no doubt that more needs to be done in this area, the authority supports Police Scotland’s commitment and actions, and both the authority and Police Scotland will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure further progress.”
Police Investigations Review Commissioner Michelle Macleod said: “We will carefully consider the findings and observations of this very comprehensive report and reflect on how the recommendations will impact on us as an organisation in the short to long-term and on improving the effectiveness of systems for dealing with complaints and increasing public confidence in the police.”
‘Racism and discrimination deplorable and unacceptable’
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone QPM said: “I am grateful to Dame Elish for her significant work which underlines the range and depth of challenges for policing, those who scrutinise policing, and the public we serve.
“Racism and discrimination of any kind is deplorable and unacceptable and I utterly condemn it. It has no place in society, and no place in policing.
“Our core values are integrity, fairness and respect and a commitment to upholding human rights. These are the foundations of policing in Scotland and are demonstrated every day by officers and staff up and the down the country.
“Values-based policing which reflects and represents our communities is vital to the public confidence and consent from which policing draws its legitimacy.
“That bond of trust is maintained and enhanced by our commitment to improving standards where learning is identified.
“I agree it is crucial that the culture of Police Scotland is welcoming and inclusive to all and that we support all our people to thrive and flourish in what is an extremely demanding job.
“Dame Elish’s recommendations are wide-ranging and their implications now require careful consideration. Police Scotland will continue to work with communities and other partners to relentlessly improve how we serve our fellow citizens and maintain their trust and support.”