Police Scotland needs a “strong and bold” position on equality and diversity, a watchdog has recommended.
It comes as a survey of current and former Police Scotland officers found 41% of respondents experienced discrimination or harassment while in the force.
A total of 542 officers responded to a survey on their experiences of equality and diversity in Police Scotland.
Just under half of respondents said they would not recommend policing as a career, while only 28% expressed satisfaction with their training and development.
The survey was part of a wide-ranging report by HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) on how Police Scotland treated under-represented groups within the organisation.
HMICS said the survey respondents were self-selecting and the results would not reflect the experience of everyone in the organisation.
While more than half of respondents agreed the force was committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, nearly a third said they felt they “did not belong”.
Female respondents listed reasons why they would not recommend a career in policing.
One said: “I have been sexually assaulted at work, as have most female colleagues I have spoken to.
“I have also spent years being on the receiving end of sexist ‘jokes’ and banter, been asked questions regarding what sexual practices I take part in and so on.”
Another said: “Although there have been improvements since I joined the organisation it still very much feels like a ‘boys’ club’ and I feel women’s performance comes under far more scrutiny than males.”
Other respondents said issues around race and ethnicity were the reasons they would not recommend a career in policing.
One said: “Most people from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t feel they belong here and they feel that the colour of their skin and accent is a hurdle when it comes to their progress.”
Another said: “The police are corrupt, racist and Islamophobic and I would never want my family and friends to go through what I did.”
Another respondent said there were “daily racial microaggressions” and a “pack-like canteen culture”.
Gill Imery, the chief inspector of constabulary in Scotland, said progress in recruiting people from underrepresented grounds had been made since her previous report in September 2020.
However there is little visibility of underrepresented groups in senior management, her report said.
She said: “The inspection found evidence of genuine commitment at the most senior levels of Police Scotland to ensure that the service is welcoming and inclusive.
“Where the evidence is less clear is the extent to which the strong message from the top is being translated into action that has a positive impact on the day-to-day experience of police officers and staff from under-represented groups working in Police Scotland.
“The limitations of data available to help the service understand the impact of its activities, identify trends and make improvements, was a recurring theme in this inspection.”
Her report recommended that “Police Scotland should assert a strong and bold position in its external and internal communications on equality and diversity matters”.
Responding to the report, deputy chief constable Fiona Taylor said: “This report recognises our commitment to building a service with a culture founded on our values so that we better reflect, represent and serve the public.
“Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review underlined the depth of these challenges and we know through engagement with our own staff associations that there is much work to be done.
“Although HMICS acknowledges the limitations of the survey conducted as part of this inspection, the chief constable has been clear that police leaders must enable and support those who speak up so that they can be heard.
“We have introduced a recruitment and promotion process based on our values.
“Our intakes are more representative of society than in the past and our leadership training will foster culture change.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said the report should challenge Police Scotland to do more to tackle condescending behaviour and derogatory comments.
He said: “This long-overdue report shows that ignorance isn’t bliss.
“Nobody should have to face derogatory comments about their gender or any inappropriate behaviour in their workplace.”