Police Scotland is ‘institutionally racist and discriminatory’, chief constable admits

Police Scotland’s chief constable has admitted that the force is “institutionally racist and discriminatory”.

Sir Iain Livingstone, who is set to retire later this year, said prejudice and bad behaviour within policing was “rightly of great concern and is utterly condemned”.

Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority on Thursday morning, Sir Iain said the right thing to do as chief constable is to “clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist”.

He added: “Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory.

“Publicly acknowledging these institutional issues exist is essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist service.

“It is also critical to our determination to lead wider change in society.

“Prejudice and bad behaviour within policing, as highlighted by court and conduct cases, various independent reviews and by listening to our own officers and staff over recent years, is rightly of great concern and is utterly condemned.”

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Sir Iain stressed that his admission did not mean that individual officers or staff were racist or sexist.

He said: “I have great confidence in the character and values of our people. I am proud of Police Scotland and I am proud of my colleagues, proud of my officers and staff.

“So I know and have shared the reservations and concerns about acknowledging that institutional discrimination exists in policing.”

Sir Iain, who has been an officer for three decades and held the position of chief constable for six years, admitted that people from different backgrounds or with different requirements “don’t always get the service that is their right”.

He said that was also true for the force’s own officers and staff.

Sir Iain said there “is no place” in Police Scotland for those who reject the force’s values and standards, noting there has been “rigorous recruitment; enhanced vetting; more visible conduct outcomes; and a focus on prevention”.

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The chief constable also put the “onus” on the force to rid itself of institutional racism.

Sir Iain said: “A candid, clear assessment of institutional discrimination means recognising our absolute duty to provide just and effective policing for all according to their specific needs and circumstances.

“It also requires identifying and removing the deep-rooted barriers to achieving this.

“These are necessary steps to progress the commitment that Police Scotland will be anti-racist; a personal commitment I made to my fellow citizens at the commencement of the public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh. And, as a commitment to the people of Scotland, it is also a commitment to Sheku Bayoh’s family and loved ones.

“The onus is on us, the police service, to address gaps and challenge bias, known or unwitting, at every level, wherever bias occurs, to maintain and build confidence with all communities.”

Sir Iain added that understanding and recognising institutional racism and discrimination will help lead the “necessary change” in the force and “contribute to change across society”.

He said that Scotland as a whole must join the mission to “eradicate discrimination”.

Sir Iain added: “The police service of Scotland is committed [to] that mission, committed to ensuring our police service, your police service and institutions are, together with the people of Scotland, building fairness, equality and justice.”

At First Minister’s Questions later on Thursday, Humza Yousaf commended Sir Iain for his statement.

He said: “That is the first step that is required in order to then dismantle those institutional and structural barriers that exist.”

Mr Yousaf added: “As a person of colour, the statement from the chief constable is monumental, historic.”