It is a ‘moral imperative and operational necessity’ for police forces across the UK to demonstrate ‘no tolerance for misogyny, racism and discrimination’ within their ranks and in society at large, said the Scotland’s police chief, adding that the voices of survivors of sexual violence are “vital” in bringing about improvements.
Writing exclusively for the Guardian, the force’s chief constable, Iain Livingstone, said: “Words and good intentions are not enough. There must be action – practical, firm, progressive, visible action.
He adds that the “hard-won lessons” of police reform in Scotland – the UK’s second biggest force – can provide insight for colleagues and communities elsewhere.
Almost a decade after Scotland merged 10 police organizations into a single national service, Livingstone acknowledges the transition has been ‘enormously difficult’ and ‘we haven’t done everything right’, but points to the record of the force in solving murder cases, policing the Cop26 climate summit and preventing drug overdoses as evidence of how restructuring has improved policing.
Last week, two separate reviews by Sir Michael Barber and Sir Tom Winsor argued that England and Wales’ 43 forces must operate as a unified network if they are to become more fit for purpose. They also recommended changes to training and skills.
Police culture remains under close scrutiny following the murder of Sarah Everard in March last year and evidence of institutional misogyny and racism at the Met that ultimately led to the resignation last month of Force Commissioner Cressida Dick .
Livingstone is referring to the ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ public awareness campaign, launched last October, which called on men to question their own and their peers’ behavior towards women. “It was an important message for Scottish society, including for us in the police – as individuals and as a service.”
Immediately after details emerged of Everard’s abduction by an on-duty policeman, Livingstone implemented a vetting system to reassure women approached by a lone policeman – a move, he wrote, that reflected “the responsibility of the police to accept responsibility for responding to public concerns”.
These measures were welcomed by activists, especially following other responses that seemed to underscore the need for female victims to take responsibility for protecting themselves.
“Operational failures, or where we fail to live up to our values, are rightly the subject of critical scrutiny,” Livingstone writes. He ordered an independent review last October after an employment tribunal found evidence of a ‘gender culture’ in Armed Police Scotland. Another independent public inquiry is currently underway into the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in 2015 in police custody after being restrained by officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
“As we pursue our own development,” he concludes, “our offer is to share the knowledge and value that Scotland’s hard-won lessons can bring to better policing in communities across the UK”.