Police Scotland to improve equality and diversity after ‘sexism’ case

Review recommends refresher training on DEI, professional behaviour standards and grievance procedures

All business sectors are feeling the pressure to implement diversity and inclusion effectively, including the police. Recently, BBC News reported that Police Scotland must significantly improve their training around equality and diversity following a ‘sexism‘ case.

A review was carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), ordered after ex-firearms officer Rhona Malone – who had raised concerns about sexism – was paid almost £1m after an employment tribunal found that she had been victimised.

Ms Malone, who was based in Edinburgh, first raised concerns about sexism within the force in 2018 when she received an email written by Inspector Keith Warhurst saying two female firearms officers should not be deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty. When she alerted her bosses to her experiences, she was offered a small payout on the condition she signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to stop her from speaking out.

Ms Malone – who was described as having an “exemplary record” – refused and took her case to an employment tribunal. In 2020, Ms Malone told the BBC that she took her case to a tribunal because she wanted acknowledgement and accountability for how she had been treated. She said she would have been “an absolute hypocrite” if she had signed the NDA.

The tribunal ruled in her favour in October 2021, with the £947,909.07 payout confirmed in May this year. The former officer described winning her tribunal as “vindication” but said Police Scotland had put her through “absolute hell”.

The PSNI review made specific reference to Warhurst’s email about female firearms officers in which he had said: “I am going to plunge in with both feet and open myself up to being accused of being sexist.” It described the contents as “wholly inappropriate” and said they demonstrated “the lack of respect towards female colleagues”.

Consequently, the review said the key areas for future Police Scotland training were “in relation to equality/diversity and dignity.”

The review also said it had to be made clear that breaches of training and professional standards of behaviour would not be tolerated – and that this could lead to “misconduct/disciplinary sanction including, but not limited to, dismissal”.

Training was recommended in areas of policing where there is a “boys’ club” culture. The review added: “Comments such as this are not becoming of police officers, let alone senior management.” The recommended refresher training includes:

  • Diversity and inclusion for Insp Warhurst
  • Standards of Professional Behaviour for senior management
  • Grievance Standard Operating Procedure

Police Scotland said progress on the recommendations would be reported to the Scottish Police Authority.

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