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LGBTI officers crucial to improving community relations says chief

LGBTI staff have a critical role in improving community relations and recruitment, says Police Scotland?s chief constable.
Published - 26/11/2020 By - Chris Smith

Police Scotland’s Chief Constable used the 30th anniversary of his force’s LGBTI Association to reaffirm the force’s commitment to improving diversity following a critical report into discrimination against its own officers.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told officers at the Scottish LGBTI Police Association’s online conference that having visible role models in the force’s ranks was critical to improving diversity.

It follows publication of the final report for the Scottish Police Board by Dame Elish Angiolini into complaints handling which was heavily critical of the way allegations of misconduct by senior officers were dealt with.

The report said officers from minority groups had been treated badly, leading some to leave the force.

“Much of the evidence presented to me by some serving officers from Black and Asian minority ethnic communities 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 1999 - the year of the Macpherson report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry - or as much as we may like to believe that they have,” she said.

“I was also deeply concerned to hear about the experiences of officers and staff about discrimination experienced by female police officers and staff and by LGBTI officers and staff.”

She advised: “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.”

CC Livingstone told the event that the advice was being heeded: “We’ve come an awful long way in those 30 years from when people used to have had to meet in secret.

“There’s been an enormous amount achieved through the work of the association. But we’ve still got lots to do in policing to make sure that we are fully representative and inclusive, allowing people to truly be themselves and to flourish.”

The online conference attracted all of the senior figures involved in policing decisions – who all made clear that the force would be changing.

The event heard from Justice Minister Humza Yousaf who warned implementing the reports 80 recommendations would take time but said the force was already acting on many of them.

But he backed the work of the group and urged members to pick up the phone to discuss issues.

“Let’s be honest, there are still frankly a number of challenges for LGBTI officers – and indeed people in wider society,” he said. “We’re delighted to provide funding – we do that because we believe in and value the work that you do.”

Lynn Brown, Interim Chief Executive of the Police Board said there would be discussions on issues, concerns and “what can be done to make it better”.

One of the guest speakers was the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on LGBTI+ issues.

DCC Julie Cooke praised the group’s work and said there was more to do for policing: “We would hope that the time will come when networks become less necessary as policing becomes more inclusive.”

The Association said it would work in partnership with all involved in implementing the recommendations.

General Secretary Sgt Louise Beale told Police Oracle that the force understood the wider value of diversity.

“Having those visible role models, whether in uniform or in a specialism, shows the force is open to having those open conversations and having those positive interactions that lead to better intelligence about what’s going on in the community we serve.”

She added: “It’s going to take time because of the damage that’s been done over many years but it seems like we are pushing against an open door. We’re going in the right direction.&

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