New Police Scotland chief agrees force is 'institutionally racist'

Jo Farrell formally took over from Sir Iain Livingstone during a swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

Police Scotland’s new chief constable said she agrees with her predecessor that the force is “institutionally discriminatory”.

Jo Farrell formally took command of the national force in a swearing-in ceremony at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, Fife.

The chief constable underlined her determination to drive an anti-discriminatory agenda after Sir Iain Livingstone’s statement that the force was institutionally racist and sexist.

“I know the acknowledgement of institutional discrimination is a difficult message for many dedicated and honourable officers and staff,” she said.

Chief constable Jo Farrell being sworn in.Allan Bovill/Police Scotland

“Having considered Sir Iain’s reasons, I agree Police Scotland is institutionally discriminatory. People with different backgrounds or experiences, including our officers and staff, have not always received the service that is their right.

“The onus is on us to challenge bad behaviour and prejudice, address gaps and eradicate bias, known or unwitting, at every level. Our Policing Together programme drives this moral, legal and operational imperative so that we maintain and build confidence with all communities.

“I will bring my support and leadership to this work and our success will be measured by the improved experiences of our officers and staff, and of the public.”

The new chief constable said her “operational focus” would be on “threat, harm, and risk”.

“Police Scotland will focus on prevention, problem solving and proactivity, and on looking after our hard-working officers and staff so our people can deliver our vital public service,” she said.

“Police Scotland is a highly credible public sector organisation known for its compassion and it attracts huge public support. It is a privilege to be entrusted with the leadership of so many talented, professional, and courageous police officers, staff, and volunteers.”

CC Farrell is the first woman to hold the role following Sir Iain’s retirement earlier this year and takes over a force facing numerous challenges.

Last week, Police Scotland announced it is postponing an intake of 200 probationary officers in January amid funding pressures.

The force also said it will pause all training and redirect officers to support and maintain operational policing over the busy festive period.

Furthermore, CC Farrell assumes overall responsibility for the conclusion of the force’s investigation into the SNP’s funding and finances – Operation Branchform.

Earlier this year, former party chief executive Peter Murrell, then party treasurer Colin Beattie and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon were arrested in relation to the probe, all being released without charge pending further investigation.

CC Farrell joins Police Scotland from Durham Constabulary.

She was appointed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) following a six-week assessment process and takes up the post on a salary of more than £232,000 per annum.

During her leadership of Durham Constabulary, the force was involved in high-profile investigations into political figures.

In May 2020, it 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.

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