Police Scotland still faces a “considerable cultural challenge” over the experience of women and minority ethnic people in the force, according to a new report.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) report looked specifically at the recruitment, retention, development and promotion of people from under-represented groups in Police Scotland.
Within the force, 32% (5709) of police officers are female and 1% (253) are from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, which is not representative of the general population – which is 51.1% female and 4% BME.
The inspection found evidence of genuine commitment at the most senior levels of Police Scotland to ensure the service is welcoming and inclusive.
“Retention is equally as important as recruitment. There is little point in attracting more individuals from under-represented groups if they are not retained.”Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary
However it found fewer signs the leadership message is being translated into action that has a consistent positive impact on the day-to-day experience of police officers and staff from under-represented groups.
As part of the inspection, HMICS conducted an online survey to seek the views of both current and former police officers.
Among the 542 who responded, many described experiences of bullying and/or discrimination and several said they had also experienced poor treatment or a lack of support from their managers.
Some cited experiencing sexual assault and harassment, jokes, innuendo, unfair and unequal treatment and a lack of opportunities and support.
The report said: “In line with the terms of reference of this inspection, we have focused primarily in the protected characteristics of sex and race, and our findings would indicate there still remains a considerable cultural challenge for the force.
“It is also worthy of note that we found equally concerning evidence relating to the treatment of people with a disability.”
The report is phase two of the Thematic Inspection of Police Scotland Training and Development and follows the phase one report, published in September 2020, which highlighted a lack of diversity training for police officers and staff in leadership roles.
A report by Dame Elish Angiolini – the Independent Review of Complaints Handling, Investigations and Misconduct Issues in Relation to Policing – was published in November last year.
The latest HMICS report praises the work of the Positive Action team, which provides support to people from under-represented groups who are considering a career in policing, but said it considers that Police Scotland has not devoted sufficient resources to engage and proactively recruit from these communities.
Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said: “Retention is equally as important as recruitment. There is little point in attracting more individuals from under-represented groups if they are not retained.
“I expect Police Scotland to understand both the challenges facing people from under-represented groups who want to apply to join the police, and the challenges for those already working in the organisation.”
The report makes ten recommendations, including that Police Scotland should devise a programme of refresher training in equality, diversity and inclusion for all members of the organisation and that it should consider developing a retention strategy.
Police Scotland 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.
“The chief constable agreed with Dame Elish’s recommendation that Police Scotland should have additional and external support to accelerate improvements in equality, diversity and inclusion, and an independent review group has been established to provide oversight of our response to these issues.”
A Scottish Police Authority spokesman said: “This HMICS thematic report acknowledges positive progress that has been made by Police Scotland to address concerns around diversity and equality within policing.
“This progress chimes with the update the authority received in September from the equalities independent review group being chaired by Robin Iffla, set up to accelerate Police Scotland’s activity in mainstreaming equality, diversity and inclusion through the service.
“Whilst there is no doubt that more needs to be done in this area, Police Scotland’s leadership team have set out a clear commitment to developing and building an inclusive organisation that reflects and represents the public it serves.
“The authority’s people committee will consider this report at its meeting in November and Police Scotland’s initial response and timelines for actions to address recommendations.”