Police officers ‘fear being labelled a grass if they call out misogyny and sexism’

Officers who raise concerns about misogyny and sexism at Police Scotland fear being labelled a grass and feel they have a “target” on their back, a new report has found.

It also said a “boys’ club culture” exists in parts of the service where “the real team meetings happen on the golf course”.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) paper said colleagues often disguise or label sexist behaviour as “banter” and if someone challenges or calls it out, they are seen as not being able to take a take a joke and isolated from the team.

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‘Police Scotland is institutionally racist’

It comes after Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone last week admitted the force is “institutionally racist and discriminatory”.

The new report contained the results of an anonymous online survey, which received 528 responses and found that 81% agree sexism and misogyny is an issue in the force.

The research, carried out between August and October last year for the SPA People Committee, revealed 86% of female colleagues said they have either been subjected to and/or witnessed sexism and misogyny.

Respondents described “having a target on your back” when raising issues and grievances, being labelled a “troublemaker” and “red-marked” during their career.

Some expressed concerns about working conditions and a lack of support for flexible working plans and maternity and paternity leave.

Others described being overlooked for promotion due to maternity and told they had forfeited their policing career by having families.

The report said there have been particular improvements since the early 2000s but there are still areas that need improvement.

It said: “Colleagues need to feel safe to call out behaviours and feel supported when they do. Leadership must be inclusive, visible and accountable across the service to inspire positive change.”

It said the force must “cultivate visible change to ensure that a zero-tolerance approach to sexism and misogyny is the reality”, adding: “This plays an essential part in fostering confidence in colleagues that if they raise an issue, this will be addressed in appropriate and supportive ways.”

Women who have worked in the police have previously spoken out about their experiences, and former armed response officer Rhona Malone last year won almost £1m in compensation from the force after an employment tribunal ruled she was victimised while raising sexism concerns.

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Last week, Sir Iain said the force was “institutionally racist and discriminatory” but that the admission “absolutely does not mean” all officers and staff are racist, sexist or homophobic.

He went on to say there is “no place” in Police Scotland for people who harbour prejudices and that the behaviour of colleagues who have been found to hold such views is “utterly condemned”.

It came as a separate report found “instances of ongoing discrimination against minoritised communities, including first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia” by serving officers.

Commenting on the new report, Assistant Chief Constable Emma Bond, lead on the delivery of action to tackle sexism and misogyny, said: “Hearing these experiences has been difficult and, in some instances, shocking but absolutely necessary.”

She added: “However, people also told us they were seeing progress and change. Women leading at every level in policing, proactive steps to recruit more women and better support for flexible working.

“We are committed to building on this, to continue to listen, to change and become an inclusive, anti-discriminatory organisation that reflects, and influences, the communities we serve.”