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Analysis: Do police problems prove there is Life on Mars?

An STV News investigation suggests sexism, misogyny and worse at Police Scotland in 2019.

Angela Wilson spent her career fighting for equality.
Angela Wilson spent her career fighting for equality. STV

By Russell Findlay

Police Scotland's senior management and PR bosses are acutely sensitive about the treatment of female officers and civilian staff in today's enlightened times.

Life on Mars stereotypes of sexism, misogyny and worse were supposed to have been left in the 1970s - but today's STV News investigation suggests problems persist in 2019 Scotland.

Angela Wilson, a former assistant chief constable of Tayside Police with more than 30 years' service here and in England, spent her career fighting for equality in the ranks.

Having spoken with one of the Moray female officers and others who have suffered similar ordeals elsewhere in Scotland, she believes political intervention is required.

Ms Wilson told STV News: "Things indeed may have changed but clearly they've not changed sufficiently - this is not an isolated case.

"There's no point in just looking at this today and hoping it will go away and things will improve ever so slightly. There needs to be a look at the culture and how cultural change can be affected.

"I think MSPs on the justice committee need to call evidence; they need to be looking how far and wide this is."

Ms Wilson is wary about commenting on policing issues because the last time she did, she suffered online abuse.

She was attacked after questioning the suitability of Iain Livingstone becoming chief constable due to a previous allegation of sexually assaulting a female officer of which he was cleared, although sanctioned for drunkenly falling asleep in her police college room.

Her concerns prompted Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation union, to brand her "useless", a "buffoon" and "one of the most incompetent imbeciles ever to have held rank in the police service".

https://stv.tv/news/highlands-islands/1441280-police-boys-club-accused-of-bullying-women-officers/ | default

He also wrongly stated on Twitter that a corruption inquiry "extended" to her but despite Police Scotland upholding her complaint and branding Steele's comments "inappropriate and offensive", he did not apologise and refused to delete his tweets.

That this abuse came from a prominent male policing figure seemed to prove Ms Wilson's perception - that women are still expected to know their place and keep their mouths shut.

She said: "It troubles me that people can't speak out without being attacked personally. It does make you nervous about sticking your head back up above the parapet."

Around the same time that Ms Wilson spoke out, the police public relations department put up three senior female officers for a newspaper interview headlined 'Meeting the women shattering Police Scotland's glass ceiling'.

For some female officers, this was viewed as a clumsy attempt to spin that all was well and that convincing the public was more important than addressing their personal experiences of bullying, abuse and sexual violence.

One particularly toxic case is that of former sergeant Kevin Storey - jailed for rape and sexual assault in 2014. One of his victims, a female colleague, accused senior officers of suppressing her original complaint. When she reported it, she said she was bullied and forced from her job.

'There needs to be an urgent review of how internal complaints are handled to make sure there's impartiality for starters'
Angela Wilson

Right now Police Scotland is fighting two employment tribunals against female former officers who both claim their careers were destroyed by sexual discrimination.

Karen Harper, who had 22 years' unblemished service, claims she was subjected to a "black op" to fit her up after she made a bullying complaining against a male sergeant in Dumfries.

Then there is former firearms officer PC Rhona Malone in West Lothian. Part of her sexual discrimination claim relies on an email written by a male inspector saying that two female firearms officers should not be deployed together.

Just last week, while her tribunal was ongoing, outspoken former deputy chief constable Tom Wood publicly intervened - praising the inspector for "straight-talking" who made a "good point".

Yet again, some female officers groaned at what felt like another attempt to put them in their place, to dismiss their concerns and experiences as invalid and unimportant.

Ms Wilson believes the fundamental issue is that the police system of conducting internal complaints needs to change.

How can any complainer - male or female - have faith in the integrity of an investigation conducted by the colleagues of those alleged to have committed wrongdoing?

She said: "There needs to be an urgent review of how internal complaints are handled to make sure there's impartiality for starters. My view is that internal complaints are not always effective. Clearly in this [Moray] case they haven't followed procedures if the allegations are correct.

"I have spoken to one of these officers. She made a complaint some time ago that wasn't properly investigated internally. She believed it had followed the proper processes and indeed they hadn't and she's still waiting for a conclusion to that investigation.

"They were very serious and in this day and age I'm really very shocked that this behaviour is still going on."

Another conflict, according to Ms Wilson and some officers who have pursued complaints against colleagues, is the dual role played by the Scottish Police Federation.

In Moray, as happens routinely elsewhere, they are deemed able to represent both sides in a thin blue line dispute.

Ms Wilson added: "There also needs to be a review of how the federation represents two parties when it's an internal complaint because at the moment they both represent the complainer and the person complained about and I'm not clear they can do that effectively.

"It has to be a political solution. We're standing here and this is not the first time these issues have been raised. There needs to be some political impetus behind this."

STV News invited Police Scotland's PR department to make a senior officer available for interview but they declined.

We also asked them to respond to the perception that a culture of misogyny still exists in some parts of the organisation - they did not respond.

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

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