Policing - complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues: independent review

First independent review of complaint handling, misconduct and investigations since the creation of new policing structures in 2013. Dame Elish Angiolini reviewed the effectiveness of the new systems for dealing with complaints against the police, how well complaints are investigated and the processes involved.

Chapter Nine - Complaints in the context of inclusion, diversity and discrimination


9.1 The way any organisation responds to complaints and the character of its internal culture are both important indicators of the maturity, health and effectiveness of that organisation. This can be observed in the commercial context as well as in public entities. Listening and responding effectively to complaints and, crucially, learning the implications of what those complaints indicate are excellent mechanisms for improving the quality of the service provided.

9.2 How members of Police Scotland behave towards each other in their professional context also has an important public interest dimension. The culture and behaviours of those in supervisory positions is particularly critical in setting the tone and character of the culture of the department or station in question. If officers behave badly towards each other, the prospect of fair treatment to members of the public is greatly diminished. How effectively these matters are dealt with also has important implications for recruitment, retention and promotion of the right people.

9.3 In gathering evidence for the Review I met many people who offered evidence about how the culture of Police Scotland affects the way the organisation responds to members of the public when they make complaints and how it treats its own officers and staff. This chapter records some of the views that were expressed by members of the public, officers and staff about issues related to inclusion, diversity and discrimination and comments on how those issues should be addressed.

9.4 During the Review I met with a number of Police Scotland's Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers and I have considered their evidence very carefully. I also met representatives of the diversity staff associations for women officers and staff and for LGBTI officers and staff.

9.5 The evidence suggests that some officers and staff experience discriminatory conduct, attitudes, behaviours and micro-aggressions, both internally and externally, in the course of their duties. We heard that many of these incidents go unreported even though some of these behaviours constitute misconduct and that there was a reluctance in those Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers to report for fear of being characterised as "playing the race card".

9.6 I was deeply concerned to hear about the experiences of officers and staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, as I was to hear about discrimination experienced by female police officers and by LGBTI officers.

9.7 In the context of complaints handling it was important for the Review to consider how Police Scotland, and the complaints process as a whole, supports and responds to the needs of the diverse communities it serves and the needs of different groups within and outwith the police service. In order to gain a better understanding of the issues, I met with a range of groups representing minority communities within Scotland and with officers from minority communities. I also held evidence‑gathering meetings and discussions with BEMIS[67], the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights[68] (CRER), the Scottish Women's Development Forum[69] (SWDF), the Scottish LGBTI Police Association[70] and SEMPER Scotland[71]. I am very grateful to all the individuals who gave up their time to discuss the complaints system and to share with me their often very personal experiences. I am also very grateful to Police Scotland's National Independent Strategic Advisory Group[72] (NISAG) with whom the Review met on two occasions.

9.8 The evidence suggests, alarmingly, that many individuals who come into contact with Police Scotland are reluctant to make a complaint for a number of different reasons. They may belong to minority groups, may not speak English as their first language or may be nervous about the repercussions of engaging further with the police. That reluctance may mask the extent of dissatisfaction with the service provided by the police. It is crucial that Police Scotland take steps to understand and overcome that reluctance and to remove barriers to making complaints as far as possible for this significant part of the community in Scotland. In the Accessibility and communication chapter at page 282 I make recommendations on how the system can be made more accessible.

9.9 It was evident from my focus groups with representatives of community organisations and with Black, Asian and minority ethnic police officers that there were recurring themes emerging from the experiences of different minority groups and communities; these themes in turn affected how individuals within the police service felt they were treated, as well as how communities felt about the police. I deal with each of the main issues in this section.

9.10 In the report[73] by Sir William Macpherson of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry published in February 1999 Sir William wrote that:

"Unwitting racism can arise because of lack of understanding, ignorance or mistaken beliefs. It can arise from well-intentioned but patronising words or actions. It can arise from unfamiliarity with the behaviour or cultural traditions of people or families from minority ethnic communities. It can arise from racist stereotyping of black people as potential criminals or troublemakers. Often this arises out of uncritical self-understanding born out of an inflexible police ethos of the "traditional" way of doing things. Furthermore such attitudes can thrive in a tightly knit community, so that there can be a collective failure to detect and to outlaw this breed of racism. The police canteen can too easily be the breeding ground."

9.11 Much of the evidence presented to me was a chastening reminder that in the police service and in the wider community attitudes have not changed as much as they should have since those words were written, or as much as we may like to believe that they have.

Community relations and attitudes to the police

9.12 The Review held a focus group with representatives of a wide range of different minority ethnic communities in Scotland. Participants indicated that communities differ from each other as do their issues and that within those communities there is also considerable diversity. In general, the participants felt there was a lack of understanding by Police Scotland of their communities and gave numerous examples of the effects of that disconnect. In certain communities there was a cultural or historical lack of trust in the police based on the manner of policing in other parts of the world. This resulted in a deep-seated lack of trust and fear for many people which made it almost impossible for many in those communities to contemplate making a complaint to the police. The review was told that in some cultures people do not complain about any public services. Any such reluctance to engage is of grave concern not only in relation to complaints against the police but also because it is likely to undermine the prospects of members of these communities reporting crime against themselves or assisting the police in other ways.

9.13 Many minority communities in Scotland originate from jurisdictions where the police have low accountability and there have been significant instances of brutality and corruption. It is understandable therefore that mistrust exists, not borne out of the experience of communities with Police Scotland but deriving from individuals' experiences in their country of origin, often meaning that they do not want to deal with the police in Scotland. Against that kind of background and perception, it is all the more important that police officers demonstrate through day‑to‑day community engagement the different policing culture that exists here and what policing by consent means in practice. The benefits of community policing to public confidence, building relationships, reporting of crime and helping the police keep communities safe cannot be overstated.

9.14 One serving police officer also told the Review that some members of the LGBTI community in Scotland had a similar reluctance in coming to the police for help because of mistrust.

9.15 CRER offered an excellent example of constructive engagement with minority communities. Police Scotland was one of the contributors to a local community planning partnership event which any member of the public could attend. People from minority communities attended and gave examples of bad experiences they had with the police. The officer who contributed remained after the event and sat with members of the community, spent time listening to them and took their telephone numbers for follow‑up. CRER's view was that before that event none of those individuals would have thought to complain about the police. What was emphasised to me was how significant the presence of community police officers was in addressing the fears and perceptions that many in these communities held. The loss of community police officers around Scotland was viewed as a very regressive development and made it more unlikely that members of these communities who had benefited from the presence of community officers would now continue to engage with the police. Making it easier to submit complaints may also assist members of minority communities in developing the confidence to do so. In addition to the fundamental need to achieve greater trust in these communities, making the complaints system user-friendly and accessible is also vital and I deal with this in the Accessibility and communication chapter at page 282.

9.16 BEMIS also told the Review that there was a complete lack of awareness in diverse communities of how to complain about the police and that an awareness‑raising initiative was needed.

9.17 BEMIS's view, based on research that it had carried out, was that the formation of Police Scotland in 2013 had led to a significant reduction in the number of community police officers and that this had resulted in a deterioration in community relations. The Review was told by one community representative that there is a need for outreach into communities, not as one‑off exercise but sustained over a long period of time. One organisation that acted as a third‑party reporting centre believed that Police Scotland should be more visible and accessible to communities through community centres and places of worship. Community representatives felt that learning about different communities and cultures should not be an internal police training exercise but rather a process based on regular interaction with those communities. That cultural awareness would help the police to treat people with more respect, to work in partnership with families and to understand their background. Trust depended on the everyday actions of the local police. Taking the community with you and simply enabling people to talk to the police is fundamentally important.

9.18 Particularly disturbing was the suggestion in the discussion with CRER that there is a lack of faith in some families who have lived in Scotland for many years that anything will be done if a complaint is made and a genuine worry on the families' part that whoever you encounter in Police Scotland may have a racial bias.

9.19 The Review was told by a serving police officer that there was only one non‑white person working in public protection in Glasgow, when what was really needed was a good knowledge of different cultures and an understanding of issues such as human trafficking.

9.20 The Review was told at the meetings with NISAG and CRER that refugees and asylum seekers can mistrust the police because they are perceived to be part of the state's immigration enforcement machinery. Some refugees who had been misinformed by other refugees believed that any interaction with the police could have an impact on their immigration status. The consensus in the focus group was that when interacting with the police or when the police are intervening in a situation many people tend to avoid getting involved because they fear it could jeopardise their visa status and future citizenship options.

9.21 The focus group participants felt that Police Scotland should work to eliminate the fear of complaining and the lack of trust in the police. A number of examples were given to illustrate the experience of diverse communities. These included examples of complaints that could not be pursued or petered out because no complaint reference number had been given out, or because only one individual officer could deal with the complaint. The Review was told that in some instances there was no indication of how long it would be before a reply to a complaint was received. Concern was raised about who has access to a complaint when it is recorded on the Police Scotland computer system and whether any other sections of the police have access to the complaint details; knowing such information could make a difference to complainer confidence. The COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted digital poverty within Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, therefore offering online forms for complaints is insufficient.

Third-party reporting

9.22 The Police Scotland website makes clear that if a member of the public prefers to be represented by another person (e.g. by a solicitor, an elected representative, community group or some other organisation) in making a complaint they may do so. It offers Citizens Advice Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council as examples.

9.23 Police Scotland also recognise that in some cases victims and witnesses of hate crime do not feel comfortable reporting the matter directly to them and may be more comfortable reporting incidents to someone with whom they are familiar. Police Scotland work in partnership with a wide variety of partners who perform the role of third‑party reporting centres for hate crime. These partners have been trained to assist people in submitting a report to the police and can make such a report on their behalf. Examples of third‑party reporting centres range from housing associations to victim support offices and voluntary groups.

9.24 The Review took evidence from a number of organisations who perform the third‑party reporting role. There are about 500 third‑party reporting centres in Scotland to whom hate crime can be reported. CRER noted that it would be hard to find anyone who would provide support for someone in making a complaint against the police. Notwithstanding that, it was CRER's view that it would be better if individuals felt able and were encouraged to go direct to the police to make a complaint. In the best of all possible worlds people would not be scared to complain directly to the police but the evidence suggests that many members of minority communities are, and therefore systems have to be designed to take into account and overcome that reluctance.

9.25 During the focus group one representative told the Review that third‑party reporting was a necessary option because many in their community viewed the complaints process as quite complicated and inaccessible. They felt that the police were not there for them and would only complain through a third party.

9.26 I strongly believe that accessibility is an element of the system that needs to be significantly strengthened in order that all those who have a legitimate complaint to make can do so easily and can choose the route that best suits their capabilities and capacity. Encouraging direct engagement and supporting those who wish to complain indirectly are not incompatible; there are compelling arguments in favour of the provision of both options.

9.27 I recommend in the Accessibility and communication chapter at page 282 that Police Scotland should have discussions with a number of the third‑party reporting centres for hate crime, including those representing minority groups, and secure their agreement to offer third‑party support for those who wish to make a complaint against the police.

Public confidence

9.28 In my 2017 report on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody[74] in England and Wales I said that community confidence and trust in the police had been undermined in the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community and could only be rebuilt with a real effort to learn from institutional mistakes. The picture in Scotland is different but the factors that can engender a lack of trust in the police and the steps that police services need to take to build public confidence are the same. One of those steps is to deliver an accessible, encouraging and responsive system for dealing swiftly and fairly with complaints against the police.

9.29 The Review was told that, as well as the imported attitudes that some communities bring from their different cultural experiences of other police services abroad, lack of trust in the police in Scotland had been compounded by the resource issues and the reduction in community policing that I describe above and which followed the creation of Police Scotland.

9.30 Representatives from diverse communities also told the Review that cultural awareness training had been provided to Police Scotland, and that there were good examples of engagement with Police Scotland in areas such as domestic abuse. These are important steps in the right direction, however it is clear that in order for all communities in Scotland to feel confident about accessing the complaints process, there is further work to be done in improving community relations and understanding different cultures and backgrounds.

Recruitment and retention of officers and staff

9.31 In order to encourage confidence in the police and a willingness to interact with them, a police service should be representative of the whole of the society that it serves and its members should be drawn from diverse sections of that society. In this context it is worth quoting again Peel's principles[75]which stated that a relationship should be maintained with the public at all times that "gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence".

9.32 As at 31 March 2020 Police Scotland had 253 police officers who self‑classify as BME[76] out of a total of 17,693 officers. The service had 87 staff who self‑classify as BME out of a total of 5,455. The overall proportion of female police officers was 32%.

9.33 The Review heard evidence that although there was a drive to recruit officers from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the experiences of some recruits had caused them to leave the profession, often within three to five years. The Review was told during a focus group that ethnic minority officers were leaving because of the culture of the police and the way they were treated.

9.34 One officer told the Review that they had to raise a formal complaint as a result of racial abuse received from colleagues, that they received no support or protection, that the guidance they were given and personal development was poor and that they felt as though they had been "tricked" into joining the service in order to "tick a box". They described feeling abandoned and how line managers did not know what to do with them.

9.35 During my focus group discussion, I asked the officers if they would recommend a career in the police to other people from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. All but one stated that they would not recommend joining the police. The officer who said that they would recommend someone to join explained that they were hopeful of change and people from an ethnic minority background were needed in the service; it was a great job full of satisfaction but the system and culture needed to change. On the subject of promotion, that officer commented pointedly that it was easier for a person from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background to become a doctor than to become a sergeant in the police.

9.36 Some contributors believed that racism was more prevalent within the service than within the community and that racist attitudes are also imported with some new recruits; Police Scotland therefore had to acknowledge that training is needed to address any racist, bigoted or misogynistic attitudes that exist and to move beyond stereotypes in some recruits' thinking.

9.37 A representative from SEMPER Scotland told the Review that Police Scotland should ensure a culture where Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers and staff were comfortable inside the service; this was not about positive discrimination or quick fixes. They recognised that it had taken a lot of effort to recruit people into the service but Police Scotland could not track the attrition rate of officers leaving; there was no exit interview process, so Police Scotland do not find out why they are leaving. The Review was told that this should be a matter of public concern not least because each recruit's two‑year training programme was a significant investment of public money.


9.38 One of the main issues that can impede greater diversity within any organisation is its culture. Cultural values and how they are lived make a fundamental difference to how large organisations function and feel to people. I describe the positive and negative effects of traditional policing culture in the Policing culture chapter at page 125. In the context of inclusion, diversity and discrimination I am well aware of the impact of canteen culture, humour and machismo behaviour within policing. Some of those impacts on individuals have been brought home to me in stark terms in much of the evidence that I have been given by serving police officers during the Review. As one serving officer put it: how you treat people should be a significant part of police competencies and if you treat the people inside the organisation badly, the likelihood is that you will also treat people outside the organisation badly.

9.39 Canteen culture has been defined as "racist and sexist attitudes shared by many ordinary workers within an organisation, especially attitudes that the organisation officially disapproves of"[77]. One of the witnesses quoted in the Macpherson Report, in referring to the Metropolitan Police Service, stated that there was the impression, "that there was far too much 'canteen culture' of racism within the police force. Officers feel that it is appropriate to say things within the confines of their own ranks and without action being taken by people to put a stop to it"[78].

9.40 The 2014 dissertation 'The enduring quality of police canteen culture/subculture in a changing police landscape'[79]refers to the notion of 'habitus' where people encounter long-standing traditions and behaviours which are handed down through the generations. The author believes that individuals unconsciously submit to subtle pressure to fit in with patterns of how things are done and over time their thinking is shaped by these enduring patterns. However, if an organisational culture is to be dynamic and successful it needs to give individuals space in order for them to negotiate their own position within a range of cultural choices.

9.41 There are ways of assessing the culture of an organisation such as employee surveys and cultural audits. One SEMPER Scotland member told me that there was an issue with the Police Scotland staff survey because the organisation was risk‑averse; an open conversation would be a good way for management to get feedback but Police Scotland was "scared to have a dialogue" and didn't want criticism. The response to the survey results should be a constant drive for improvement but tended to be focused on quick wins. Another member highlighted that there was no aspect of culture or pride in the survey or any question along the lines of 'Do you feel that you belong?'.

9.42 It is important to understand the character of the culture in which people are working and the nature of their behaviour towards each other. Police Scotland should use its staff survey to elicit a better understanding of the experience of officers and staff and should follow that up with focus groups of officers and staff with senior officers.

9.43 If the culture of Police Scotland is to change and become more inclusive throughout all parts of the organisation it has to allow new recruits to help shape that culture rather than simply conform to what they find when they join. An inclusive organisation will build an environment where everybody feels comfortable and can thrive by being themselves in the workplace and feel valued for who they are as well as what they contribute.


9.44 Although I deal with training matters for Police Scotland, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in the Training chapter at page 348, it is important to note that the evidence to the Review suggests diversity and unconscious bias training need to be provided more widely, regularly and consistently across Police Scotland. It was felt by some participants in the focus group that the diversity training provided is superficial and only factors in descriptions of different communities, which in turn can lead to unhelpful stereotyping, rather than exploring and explaining racial and other biases; that there needs to be a shift away from concentrating on one-off training courses, and greater emphasis on continuous improvement and refresher sessions. SEMPER Scotland also argued that all members of misconduct hearings and Police Appeals Tribunals should receive mandatory training in unconscious bias and noted that currently no allowance is made by panels for mitigating circumstances which relate to discriminatory behaviour, for example for those officers who have been the subject of racial abuse.

9.45 The September 2020 report[80] by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) recommended that Police Scotland should ensure that diversity training is provided and mainstreamed into leadership courses at all levels as a matter of urgency. The report said:

"Diversity training was previously provided as part of leadership courses at all levels. The discontinuation of most leadership courses has created a gap in relation to diversity training provided to senior members of the organisation."

"The issue of diversity in policing, specifically the recruitment, retention, development and promotion of under-represented groups, is one that HMICS will concentrate on as a priority in the next phase of inspection of Training and Development."

Support and change needed within Police Scotland

9.46 The Review was told in a focus group of Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers that senior leadership in Police Scotland overall was good but that there was no one from a minority ethnic background in a senior role. It was also suggested to me by one voluntary group that having greater Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation within the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) would increase public confidence.

9.47 In discussion with the Scottish Women's Development Forum (SWDF) the Review was also told that it was clear there had been a lot of positive change at the top of the organisation. The Assistant Chief Constables were all committed to equality of opportunity and so are the young recruits to the service. However, there was still quite a way to go at the sergeant and inspector level and they were important influencers. There was some change but it was slow and there was still underlying sexism and differing degrees of machismo culture in different parts of the service; some male officers struggled to cope with having a female manager.

9.48 The Review was told by a SEMPER Scotland member that there was a lot of commitment from the top about changing the organisation but at the bottom and in the middle there was no change, and that Police Scotland "need to be seen to be doing it, not doing it to be seen".

9.49 It was felt by minority ethnic officers that they could face complaints from the public or internally but those complaints would be investigated by people who had little understanding of racial matters, and that when they complain of internal racism the finding is always 'not found'. Worryingly, the Review was told by officers that "a bit of name-calling was expected". In the more serious misconduct cases often the racial element was "dropped" by PSD on the basis that "it's just part of how we talk" and because people don't want the extra work involved. The Review was also told that frequently the organisational response was to move people rather than deal with the issue. (The Review was subsequently given a categorical assurance by Police Scotland that pursuing an allegation of racist behaviour was non-negotiable and would only be dropped where there was no evidence.)

9.50 Whenever and wherever they are reported, any discriminatory behaviours which constitute a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour should be robustly pursued and be dealt with under the conduct procedures.

9.51 Some officers believed that discrimination had increased, and that greater diversity amongst line managers would never be achieved if recruits were not supported, well treated and nurtured. Another officer stated that Police Scotland now had a greater proportion of women line managers than previously because there was a political will to make that happen, and that there needs to be a similar political will if diversity is to increase amongst managers.

9.52 It was felt that white officers receive better assessments from their divisional commanders than Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, possibly, they felt, because they do not have as good a network. It was also felt that there is a pattern of inspectors failing to deal with racism within their teams because they were approaching retirement. Despite the very clear definition of racism in law, some line managers were often quick to close down any suggestion that an incident might involve racism.

9.53 During the focus group the Review was told that Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers are the subject of more complaints from the public than other officers and it was felt the onus tended to be on the officer to defend themselves when a complaint was made. A more extensive support network and more understanding from senior officers would be helpful. It was also noted that currently there is a lack of Black, Asian or minority ethnic officers in the Professional Standards Department.

9.54 A representative of the Scottish LGBTI Police Association told the Review that LGBTI officers can be treated differently; there was a lack of understanding with supervisors and relationships with colleagues can be affected. It was "pot luck" if you got supportive colleagues on your team. Supervisors might be scared of saying the wrong thing.

9.55 The Review was told that in one recent year Police Scotland dealt with seven discrimination cases against the organisation but that there was a lot of under‑reporting of discrimination, particularly among women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers. In some cases people would feel, "I've seen what happened to X" and not report something. The Review was told that some officers were reluctant to make a complaint for fear of being accused of "playing the race card". Women did not come forward with issues that they should have reported because they were concerned that they would be "marked out" for doing so.

Scottish Police Federation

9.56 The Review heard evidence from different groups that they felt that the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) did not represent all its members equally and that they did not represent Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers well. They were described as lacking empathy for minority groups and reliant on other support groups in relation to race issues.

9.57 In evidence an officer told the Review that she had not felt able to go to the SPF for help. She noted that the SPF represented "both sides" in internal complaints and that there was a lack of information for people who were the subject of a grievance; HR told them to go to the SPF, but not everyone is a member of the SPF.

9.58 The 2019 Scottish Police Authority/Police Scotland Grievance procedure states that: "You have the right to bring someone with you to any formal meetings e.g. disciplinary, grievance, capability etc. This could be a work colleague or a representative of: a Trade Union, Staff Association, Scottish Police Federation or Association of Scottish Police Superintendents."

Racial abuse from the public

9.59 In the officer focus group the Review was told that there is no support system within Police Scotland to deal with the aftermath of an incident where an officer is subjected to racial abuse on duty. Racial abuse is based on the perception of the person who is subjected to it. The following are some of the disturbing comments that were made by participants in the focus group:

"You can take the uniform off after a shift, but can't change your colour when you go out into the community."

"The nail that sticks out gets hammered and every ethnic minority officer is a nail."

"My line manager offered services after a racial incident but fundamentally the culture is too machismo to allow space for people to ask for help."

"I don't remember the names of the people whose lives I saved, I do remember the names of those who made death threats."

"… people had nowhere to turn and there was no one who could understand or feel your pain, so you take your experiences home."

9.60 Officers also talked about their experience of racial abuse within the service. They told the Review that much of the abuse goes under the radar and that ethnic minority officers experience micro-aggressions from some colleagues. Other officers would sometimes make excuses for colleagues by commenting, "they're just like that".

Capturing ethnicity data

9.61 A proper understanding of issues related to race depends to some degree on having data that allows analysis, research and learning. This was an issue I addressed in my 2017 report on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody[81] in England and Wales and which is relevant to the recording of complaints against the police in Scotland.

9.62 A number of people who gave evidence to my 2017 Review considered that race and ethnicity should automatically be considered as a factor in any investigation where these characteristics are present, unless proven otherwise. The then IPCC's own sample of data involving complaints made following the use of force, showed that there were significant gaps in England and Wales in the police service's recording of the ethnicity of those on whom force was used. Ethnicity was not recorded in a quarter of complaints about the use of force. I have been advised by the Home Office that this has now been addressed.

9.63 In relation to those making complaints against the police in Scotland there is a similar situation where Police Scotland does not capture ethnicity. To understand patterns and underlying issues it is vital that Police Scotland have demographic information. They also need to recognise that racism is not always overt and can be subtle.

9.64 Police Scotland have confirmed that neither the ethnicity of the member of public making the complaint nor the ethnicity of the police officer(s) involved is recorded on the Centurion complaints and conduct database within Professional Standards Department (PSD). While Centurion does have an 'Ethnicity' recording field, Police Scotland policy has been not to record this unless the complaint is about discriminatory behaviour; as a result, there is very limited data available.

9.65 Police Scotland have advised the Review that they do recognise the need for meaningful data on complaints and misconduct in order that they can better understand any disproportionality in disciplinary and misconduct outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic officers and staff. They are liaising with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) in an effort to understand the position in England and Wales and build on any learning from there.

9.66 As a result of research carried out by IOPC and NPCC, police forces in England and Wales have, with effect from 1 June 2020, begun to ask officers who are the subject of investigations to self-classify their ethnicity. This data collection is voluntary, with subject officers being able to elect not to share their ethnicity data, however it is mandatory for Investigating Officers to ask for this information. Police Scotland may consider adopting this approach as a step to improving ethnicity data and improving understanding of any disproportionality based on race in its decision‑making.

9.67 Police Scotland acknowledge the advantages of having access to data which would provide an overview of the specific ethnic groups affected by crime, as this would provide greater understanding of the trends and the impact of harms. While they record data on hate crime, it is not possible to extract data which provides an accurate profile of other crimes affecting different groups.

9.68 In the focus group one officer also said that true scrutiny of complaints data required more detail than just categorising a complaint as 'quality of service' and proposed that the complaint statistics should be broken down and more thoroughly analysed. I agree.

9.69 In the Republic of Ireland, the Garda Síochána[82] Ombudsman Commission's (GSOC) annual report[83] includes charts that illustrate the profile of people who complained to them in 2018. The data covers 11 different characteristics. This is a valuable exercise that should be considered by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority as a means of enhancing their understanding of public attitudes and concerns.

9.70 The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) confirmed in her most recent submission to the Review that the use of diversity monitoring forms was discussed by the Strategic Oversight Group[84] (SOG). At its meeting it was agreed that there would be benefit in Police Scotland, COPFS, the SPA, and the PIRC reviewing existing policies in relation to diversity monitoring forms and the capture and use of data on protected characteristics and, if possible, aligning their approaches. PIRC will consider the best way to make use of such data to assist in informing working practices and to identify any gaps in the community where they might need to highlight their role.

Guidance on discrimination for investigators

9.71 In my 2017 report on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody[85] in England and Wales for the then Home Secretary I said that racial stereotyping may or may not be a significant contributory factor in some deaths in custody. However, unless investigatory bodies operate transparently and are seen to give all due consideration to the possibility that stereotyping may have occurred or that discrimination took place in any given case, families and communities would continue to feel that the system is stacked against them.

9.72 PIRC and Police Scotland should ensure that discrimination issues are considered as an integral part of their work. A systematic approach should be adopted across both organisations and, in all cases, investigators should consider if discriminatory attitudes have played a part.

9.73 I have raised with the Commissioner the question of guidance available to PIRC investigators. She has confirmed that PIRC does not currently have any specific guidance for investigations on race and discrimination but is planning to adapt the IOPC's 'Guidelines for handling allegations of discrimination'[86] for their own use.

9.74 Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority's guidance for all officers and staff is contained primarily within their Equality, Diversity and Dignity standard operating procedure[87] (SOP). Police Scotland is also committed to the National Police Chiefs' Council's (NPCC) Plan of Action for inclusion and race equality in policing[88].

Part‑time and flexible working

9.75 The Scottish Women's Development Forum (SWDF) told the Review that there had been some very serious examples of discrimination related to part-time and flexible working. They believed that there was now some improvement in the system but there was still too much emphasis on organisational need. Contributors to the discussion felt that there was no flexible thinking in the organisation and that could make a big difference. We were told that Police Scotland was "patriarchal, obsessed with core hours and generally slow to change its culture".

9.76 The Review heard evidence that flexible working and part-time working could be the cause of a grievance where there was a lack of willingness or perceived lack of willingness to accommodate a request. The Scottish LGBTI Police Association told the Review that there needed to be changes made to the grievance procedure because officers and staff felt that if they submitted a grievance there could be consequences for them and ultimately they would suffer. There was also a lack of trust that if a complaint was made internally anything would be done about it.

9.77 SWDF described a perceived lack of consistency depending on the identity of the individual line manager. SWDF was campaigning for reasons to be given where officers were not being permitted to work flexibly. Some women felt unsupported or not empowered to ask for flexible working but flexible working should be open to everyone. The SWDF representatives told the Review that there were some unhelpful, unspoken attitudes towards hours worked, flexible working and caring responsibilities. There was inconsistency of practice across Police Scotland, the roll‑out of best practice was not implemented well and the organisation did not have good mechanisms for sharing good practice.

SEMPER Scotland proposal for A Fairer, More Inclusive Police Service

9.78 I am aware from the evidence provided by SEMPER Scotland that they believe that closer partnership working between Police Scotland and internal support groups on equality issues is imperative. To that end they have recently submitted to Police Scotland a set of proposals for a fairer, more inclusive police service. Most of those proposals extend beyond the remit of my Review but I do strongly support the recommendations (a) that the composition of panel members for disciplinary hearings should be more diverse and (b) that unconscious bias training be rolled out in phases beginning this year. In the Training chapter at page 348 I recommend that all police officers and staff should receive training on unconscious bias, equality legislation and diversity and that this should be updated throughout their career, with the opportunity for refresher courses at regular intervals.

Police Scotland policy on workforce diversity, inclusion and equality in policing

9.79 In a paper[89] submitted to the August 2020 meeting of the Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland outlined work being carried out by the service on diversity, inclusion and equality. The paper states that they are striving to increase the diversity of their workforce through ensuring that their systems and processes for recruitment, progression and retention hold no barriers to those from under‑represented groups. They have an ambition as a service to have a workforce that is broadly reflective of the social demography of Scotland. Equality and diversity employment monitoring is undertaken annually by Police Scotland. They are aware from this data that there is more work to be done in order for their workforce to be more representative of Scottish society.

9.80 Police Scotland's People and Development Annual Delivery Plan for 2020-21 states that they will:

  • undertake research to identify the barriers to under-represented groups joining Police Scotland;
  • identify, monitor and publish robust data to meet all external requirements and to inform internal decision‑making/focus and investment;
  • consult on, and agree a new recruitment system that mitigates unconscious bias and includes an anonymised process; and
  • deliver bespoke development programmes to increase promotion opportunities for under-represented groups – especially Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and females.

9.81 Police Scotland's Positive Action Team (PAT) was established in 2017. Their original remit was exclusively to promote the organisation to those from an ethnic minority background; however, the team has widened their reach to support recruitment across other protected characteristics including sex and sexual orientation. The Positive Action Team further supports other priority areas within the organisation, such as remote and rural recruitment efforts, and Police Scotland's obligations in supporting serving and former members of the armed forces. The Positive Action Team has monthly meetings with all the diversity staff associations.

9.82 The Positive Action Team also runs the Introduction to Policing Programme (ITPP) race diversity events. These are designed to support members of minority ethnic communities to learn more about policing through awareness events and ongoing support through the recruitment process. The ITPP commenced in 2017 and initially offered attendees a four‑day programme at the Scottish Police College. Following feedback and evaluation, the length, structure and location of the event has been revised to increase accessibility and is now a one‑day event which was hosted in a variety of locations around Scotland. This has enabled local policing divisions to become involved, with contributions from local officers, which helps to provide an accurate reflection of the nature of policing in each area.

9.83 The Positive Action Team hosted a dedicated LGBT+ recruitment event in October 2019. The event was widely publicised on social media and attracted highly positive support from LGBT+ colleagues who provided contributions on the day from their personal experiences. The event attracted 44 attendees, from which Police Scotland received 20 subsequent applications.

9.84 Women in Policing (WIP) recruitment events held in Inverness and Aberdeen in October 2019 offered prospective female candidates the opportunity to hear from a variety of officers in specialist and non‑specialist roles across the organisation. This was in an attempt to demystify and dispel any fears or uncertainties about the requirements of policing. 65% of attendees at the WIP events have pursued an application, with the overall number of female recruits in 2018-19 and 2019-20 rising from 33% to 40%.

9.85 I was reassured by the evidence provided by Police Scotland and the Chief Constable of the organisation's commitment to equality and the steps that it is taking to address discriminatory attitudes and behaviours, agree a new recruitment system that mitigates unconscious bias, and deliver bespoke development programmes to increase promotion opportunities for under-represented groups.

Attitudes and behaviours

9.86 Discriminatory attitudes and behaviours do exist in Scotland and they also exist in Police Scotland; that was evident in the discussions that I have had over recent months. The evidence presented to the Review in relation to complaints and misconduct matters is that discriminatory attitudes and behaviours are present within Police Scotland, as they are in many organisations, and that such attitudes and behaviours are also exhibited by some members of the public in the way they treat police officers.

9.87 The question to be addressed and the challenge to be met is how the police service should root out such attitudes. Eliminating discrimination and changing outdated attitudes is doubly important for Police Scotland because it relies on the trust and confidence of the public in order to do its job and it relies on members of the public to step forward and volunteer to serve in its ranks and, importantly, to remain in its ranks.

9.88 I was told by one voluntary organisation that there is a perception among minority communities that the police are racist. That has to be addressed and what is required is a genuine change in behaviours and attitudes. There will always be a canteen culture, not all of which is harmful, but there is a responsibility on every person in Police Scotland to ensure that any sub-culture reflects the organisation's values of integrity, fairness and respect, and that where it contributes to a racist, misogynistic or emotionally damaging environment it has to reform.

9.89 In order to facilitate change an organisation has to be open and self‑aware about what it is really like to work there. In one meeting I was told that the issue was more about the culture than about the leadership and that culturally Police Scotland would sooner admit to incompetence than admit to discrimination. Any such defensiveness has to be overcome and, at all levels, managers, officers and staff need to be prepared to hold their hands up and acknowledge where discriminatory behaviour or attitudes and unconscious bias exist.

9.90 Instant results are seldom possible and seldom sustained. Changing the culture is a long game but it is worth investing time, effort and resource now to lay solid foundations for a process of change that is absolutely essential. Police Scotland, the staff associations, the trade unions and the diversity staff associations all have a part to play and the SPA have an important role in holding the Chief Constable to account for progress in this area.

9.91 I was deeply concerned to hear about police officers leaving the police because of their experiences of not feeling included, valued or listened to. Talking about the British television industry in his 2020 MacTaggart lecture[90], the eminent broadcaster David Olusoga said:

"There is a brutal answer to the question why is there a lack of black controllers, black company owners and black commissioners - the people we need right now, to bring their experiences, their stories, their viewpoints, and those of the communities they come from into our industry. That answer is that we had them - and we lost them. They left because our industry failed to support their careers and nurture their talents."

9.92 The risk to the police service and to Scotland as a whole is that the same happens to the enthusiastic, intelligent and public‑spirited people from our minority communities who join Police Scotland: that they are lost to the service because of a lack of support, nurture and equal treatment. If the retention issues can be addressed and reversed Police Scotland could create a virtuous circle where enthusiastic and fulfilled recruits become the best possible salespeople and ambassadors for the organisation because they tell their friends and family about the great careers they have.

Conclusion in respect of inclusion, diversity and discrimination

9.93 Taking into consideration all the evidence that I have heard and read, I have commented on where the issues that fall within my remit can be addressed. Having a wider evidence base in order to understand and address the issues and the harm caused by discrimination is of critical importance to Police Scotland and to the public and deserves comprehensive examination.

9.94 I therefore recommend that where inclusion, diversity and discrimination issues affect public confidence more broadly they merit further detailed examination and should be the subject of a separate and urgent review.

9.95 I accept that the Police Scotland Executive team acknowledge the presence of discrimination and are committed to dealing with it but in the light of the very worrying evidence that I have received, I consider that issues related to discrimination and their impact on public confidence in Police Scotland should be the subject of a broader, fundamental review of equality matters by an independent organisation.

Recommendations in relation to inclusion, diversity and discrimination

9.96 Recommendation: Police Scotland should make use of staff surveys to enhance their understanding of the experience of all minority groups in the service and senior officers should make more use of face-to‑face meetings and focus groups with members of these groups to gain a more acute understanding of the impacts of discrimination, prejudice and unconscious bias.

9.97 Recommendation: Police Scotland should implement, where it is in their gift, the SEMPER Scotland proposal that the composition of panel members for disciplinary hearings should be more diverse.

9.98 Recommendation: Appropriate support for anyone in Police Scotland who is the subject of internal or external discrimination should be enhanced.

9.99 Recommendation: In the light of the very worrying evidence that I have received, I consider that issues related to discrimination and their impact on public confidence in Police Scotland should be the subject of a broader, fundamental review of equality matters by an independent organisation. That review should take into account HMICS's proposed inspection of Training and Development that is to concentrate on the recruitment, retention, development and promotion of under-represented groups.

9.100 Recommendation: Police Scotland should develop its diversity data collection and analysis to inform a proper understanding of issues related to discrimination so that progress can be made and those issues addressed. The service should consider what it can learn from how this is done by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission respectively.


Email: ian.kernohan@gov.scot

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