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Police Scotland chief admits force ‘is institutionally racist and discriminatory’

The chief constable of Police Scotland has said the force “is institutionally racist”.

Addressing a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Thursday, Sir Iain Livingstone said while the term can be “misinterpreted or misrepresented as unfair and personal critical assessments of police officers and police staff as individuals”, it is right for him to acknowledge the issues within the force.

He also said publicly acknowledging that these institutional issues exist is “essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist service”.

Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory

Sir Iain Livingstone

His comments put himself at odds with Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, who has refused to accept the term in criticism of his own force’s issues with racism and misogyny, arguing the term is “ambigious”.

Sir Iain said: “It is right for me, the right thing for me to do as chief constable, to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist.

“Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory.

“Publicly acknowledging these institutional issues exist is essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist service. It is also critical to our determination to lead wider change in society.

“Prejudice and bad behaviour within policing, as highlighted by court and conduct cases, various independent reviews and by listening to our own officers and staff over recent years, is rightly of great concern and is utterly condemned.

“There is no place in Police Scotland for those who reject our values and standards.

“Our vigilance as an organisation has never been stronger, rigorous recruitment; enhanced vetting; more visible conduct outcomes; and a focus on prevention.”

He also put the “onus” on the force to rid itself of institutional racism.

He told the SPA meeting: “A candid, clear assessment of institutional discrimination means recognising our absolute duty to provide just and effective policing for all according to their specific needs and circumstances.

“It also requires identifying and removing the deep-rooted barriers to achieving this. These are necessary steps to progress the commitment that Police Scotland will be anti-racist; a personal commitment I made to my fellow citizens at the commencement of the public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh.”

“And, as a commitment to the people of Scotland, it is also a commitment to Sheku Bayoh’s family and loved ones.

“The onus is on us, the police service, to address gaps and challenge bias, known or unwitting, at every level, wherever bias occurs, to maintain and build confidence with all communities.”

Met chief Sir Mark rejected the term “institutional” used in a damning report published in March to describe his force’s problems with racism, misogyny and homophobia.

A review by Baroness Louise Casey, in the wake of a string of scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard by serving police constable Wayne Couzens, said Britain’s largest force was “institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic” and in need of a “complete overhaul”.

In response, Sir Mark apologised and said he accepted the “diagnosis” of prejudice in the force.

But, controversially, he has refused to use the term “institutional”, arguing that it has become politicised and is ambiguous.

Baroness Casey hit back, saying telling the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on Wednesday that refusing to accept the word because it was “politicised” was a “get-out-of-jail card”.