Police Scotland appoints first ever female Chief Constable 

The current Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary will replace Sir Iain Livingstone when he steps down in the summer.

Jo Farrell has been appointed the first female Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

The announcement, made by justice secretary Angela Constance on Wednesday morning, comes after Sir Iain Livingstone announced he would be retiring this summer.

Farrell is the current Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary. She was appointed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) following a six-week assessment process and will take up the post – on a salary of more than £232,000 per annum – later this year.

Constance, who approved the SPA’s appointment, said: “I am delighted that Jo Farrell has been appointed as Police Scotland’s new Chief Constable following the Scottish Police Authority’s rigorous selection process.

“Jo is the first women to be appointed to this role. As the force marks its 10th anniversary year, she has shown she has the skills needed to lead the service into the next decade and meet the challenges ahead.

“Thanks to the dedication and work of the police, recorded crime rates overall are at record low levels and we have a service that is unique in the UK with an embedded human rights focus.”

During Farrell’s leadership, Durham Constabulary was involved in high-profile investigations into political figures.

In May 2020, the force faced demands to interview then prime minister Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings over lockdown breaches.

It also cleared Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of breaking lockdown rules in the “beergate” investigation.

Farrell began her career as a constable in Cambridge aged 22, becoming the first person in her family to join the police and fulfilling her childhood ambition.

Later, she joined Northumbria Police, before moving to Durham in 2016. When she became its chief constable in 2019, she was the first woman to enter that role.

During her time in charge, the force introduced a new approach to dealing with rape suspects, aimed at putting offenders under deeper scrutiny and identifying repeat offenders.

Livingstone welcomed her appointment, saying: “I congratulate Jo Farrell and look forward to working with her to ensure an effective handover that will maintain stability in Police Scotland.

“Leading our outstanding officers and staff as Scotland’s chief constable is an enormous privilege. I have great confidence Jo will continue to develop our service to protect and serve our fellow citizens.”

Farrell will take up her position just months after Livingstone said Scotland’s police force is institutionally racist and sexist.

Addressing the board of Scotland’s policing watchdog last month, Livingstone said it was “right” for him to “clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination is a reality for Police Scotland”.

He made the comments following the publication of a review of the culture within Police Scotland that revealed accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia by serving officers.

Livingstone’s statement was described as “monumental” and “historic” by First Minister Humza Yousaf in the Scottish Parliament chamber.

But there was also a “very significant” response from rank and file police officers.

David Threadgold, chair of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), told STV News: “There is no escaping the fact that they feel let down by the words that are used and they feel that all they are trying to do is come to their work and deliver the best service that they can for their colleagues and the communities in Scotland and the impact of these words has been significant.”

Threadgold said on Wednesday that Farrell’s appointment is an opportunity to address the current challenges of policing in Scotland.

“I do think that the appointment of somebody from outwith Scotland will bring fresh eyes, just naturally, because she hasn’t worked in this force area before.

“We look forward to addressing with her the challenges that we believe exist in policing in Scotland and looking forward to trying to create some of the resolution that we definitely need to deliver for the communities in Scotland.

“I think the rank-and-file will, firstly, congratulate the new chief constable. They will look forward to hearing her ideas, her vision, and the strategies for which she’s going to use to lead Police Scotland over the next number of years.”

As part of the selection process, the new Police Scotland chief constable took part in a professional peer review, psychometric testing and meetings with staff associations and community groups.

The final appointment panel was chaired by Martyn Evans of the SPA.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene said: “I welcome Jo Farrell to her new role and congratulate her on becoming Police Scotland’s first female Chief Constable.

“She has an incredibly tough job on her hands with the outgoing Chief Constable admitting that policing is currently not sustainable and that – due to SNP underfunding – the force face a permanently lower level of officer numbers at a time when violent crime is rising. Morale among officers is also rock bottom.

“I hope that she will work to ensure the Angiolini recommendations are implemented in tandem with the upcoming Police Complaints Bill, so that police officers will finally have the robust, transparent complaints system that they deserve.

“The SNP Government have to give Police Scotland the resources they need to deliver necessary reforms, as well as the modern equipment – body worn cameras, kit and cars – they need to do the job properly.”

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