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Former officers demand reform to root out misogyny in Police Scotland

© Colin D Fisher/CDFIMAGES.COMKaren Harper
Karen Harper

Police officers who suffered sexual abuse, bullying and misogyny have told the justice secretary to strengthen Police Scotland watchdogs.

A delegation of female former officers met Keith Brown last week and warned him more women will leave Police Scotland unless there is urgent action to curb sexism and misogyny.

Karen Harper, who was forced to quit her 22-year police career after being bullied, said: “We are just a fraction of the officers who have ended up losing careers over the unacceptable pattern of behaviour which continues to exist within Police Scotland.

“Far too many have been silenced by non-disclosure agreements or for fear of retribution for them to come forward and expose what is going on.

“We made it clear to the justice minister our dismay that only half the 111 recommendations contained in Dame Elish Angiolini’s report on police complaint handling two years ago have been implemented.

“Those recommendations would go a long way to ending unacceptable behaviour and make Police Scotland more accountable for unacceptable behaviour.”

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Among the reforms called for is for the watchdog Police Investigation Review Commissioner to be appointed by the King, rather than the Scottish Government, and accountable to parliament to make its work more transparent.

They also say the commissioner’s two deputies should not be former police officers, and that all three should have the legal status that allows them to be directly contacted by whistleblowers. They want police officer gross misconduct hearings and outcomes held in public to end secrecy. And PIRC should be given the power to review all non-disclosure agreements drawn up with police officers who are leaving the force, and there should be a commitment not to use NDAs to cover up wrongdoing.

Gemma MacRae, 33, was also forced from her job after trying to expose a toxic boys’ club culture at her station in Moray, said: “We believe taking these actions will protect good police officers and the public, enhance the reputation of policing and save public money through a reduction in protracted legal and procedural processes. It would also prevent needlessly destroyed careers.”

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Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay said: “It was vitally important for the justice secretary to hear these women’s powerful testimony face-to-face.

“Each have endured significant hardship because of a boys’ club culture which is enabled by Scotland’s dysfunctional system of regulation and complaints. Whistleblowers become targets while wrongdoers are protected.

“They have zero faith in Police Scotland making these changes and describe recent PR exercises as a form of gaslighting.”

The Scottish Government said: “We are grateful for all suggestions for improvement. We have recently consulted on legislative proposals with a view to delivering new legislation that will improve transparency and further strengthen public confidence.”

Police Scotland has previously stated there is no place within the force for misogyny or abusive behaviour.