Retiring police chief admits racism admission 'could have come sooner'

Sir Iain Livingstone issued a statement on Thursday saying that Police Scotland is institutionally racist and sexist.

The public admission that Scotland’s police force is institutionally racist and sexist “could have came sooner”, the outgoing Chief Constable has admitted.

Sir Iain Livingstone, Police Scotland’s Chief Constable, made the comments during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board on Thursday.

It is understood to be the first time the head of a police force has admitted it is institutionally racist and sexist.

It follows the publication of a review of the culture within Police Scotland that has revealed accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia by serving officers.

With just months left before his retirement, the police chief has come in for criticism over the timing of his statement, and he admitted on Friday that he “could have done it earlier”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday, Sir Iain said: “Could I have done this earlier? Could I have myself got to this position of accepting and recognising institutional discrimination?

“Well perhaps, perhaps I could have, and I accept that.

“But what I do say is that I’ve always been committed to driving equality, diversity and inclusion – we’ve got far greater representation now in policing than we’ve ever had.

“Lots more to do, but I think I leave the organisation in a far better place than I found it.”

The outgoing police chief did defend himself, adding the the statement does not represent a “failure of his leadership”.

He added: “I will leave office later in August, after having been chief constable for almost six years, I think we’ve got Police Scotland into a far more stable place.”

Callum Steele, the former head of the Scottish Police Federation, accused the Chief Constable of “extreme sabotage” that will “devastate the gossamer-thin remnants of any morale in the police service”.

Sir Iain conceded his statement would have be “difficult to hear”, but insisted that he is not “condemning colleagues” or saying that “no progress has been made since the 90s”.

He added: “It’s difficult to say.

“As I said, I’m a police officer myself for almost 31 years and my loyalty to my colleagues and officers and staff who I’ve worked with for many, many years, people who I know, I know their qualities, I know their values, and it’s difficult to hear.

“But you need to be clear on what I’m actually saying. I am not condemning officers and staff, I’m actually, if anything, looking at the organisation for which I’m responsible and it’s actually taken me time to have that acceptance and that realisation for the reasons I’ve said.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf described the admission as “monumental” and “historic”.

David Threadgold, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, has said it is only a minority of people who have had issues with officers, but that those people should not be ignored.

He said: “The vast majority of the police officers who heard the words from the Chief Constable yesterday, and by extension members of the public, their perception is that the Chief Constable was identifying and labelling them as institutionally racist. That is simply not the case.

“We are talking about a minority of people who have an issue with the way that the service has dealt with them.

“Now, that means that we cannot ignore those people. Regardless of the situation in which they found themselves complaining about, we have to deal with those issues.

“We cannot get away from the fact that largely these things come down to finances now.

“I heard the First Minister say yesterday that he describes Sir Iain’s comments as historical and ground-breaking, and I agree with him, but what is it we’re now going to do about it because to drive change within our organisation there is a cost to that.”

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