POLICE Scotland has held Britain’s first-ever LGBTI recruitment event as it moves to make its ranks like the nation it serves.

The force – like constabularies elsewhere in the UK – has long come under criticism for failing to reflect society and therefore creating barriers to solving crimes and helping people in need.

It has already organised jobs fairs designed to give women a female-only space to meet serving officers and find out what it’s like to be a cop. Police Scotland’s event for potential recruits who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex was designed to offer a similar opportunity. 

Louise Beale is general secretary of the Scottish LGBTI Police Association, a body which helped organise the jobs drive for sexual minorities in October.

She said: “We welcome the opportunity to work with Police Scotland to develop and host this event. The LGBTI community are often an invisible minority, this event gave potential recruits the opportunity to hear from serving LGBTI officers, their careers and life as a police officer. We look forward to holding events in the east and north next year.”

Around three per cent of police officers and staff identify themselves as being from a sexual minority. Numbers have gone up among officers – from 542 to 568 in 12 months, according to the most recent snapshot from March 2019. Among police staff it is also up, increasing from 133 to 158.

Police Scotland has a special unit, called the Positive Action Team or PAT, based at the old Strathclyde Police training centre at Jackton in South Lanarkshire, which aims to boost numbers of under-represented minorities.

Its head, Superintendent Simon Wright, said: “We must ensure we have a police service that reflects our communities and the LGBTI-focussed recruitment event was held to encourage people from the LGBTI community to consider a career in policing.

“There are many reasons why people don’t want to join the police. Our diversity events are not about giving people an advantage – they are held to give people from minority groups the opportunity to see what we do, to speak to police officers with similar backgrounds and ask us questions specific to their concerns. 

“We will continue to work closely with the Scottish LGBTI Police Association, who were an integral part of developing this event.” 

Police Scotland has long kept tabs on numbers of LGBTI officers and staff – or those who are comfortable to be recognised as such. 

It has also come under pressure to boost representation for women and less invisible minorities, including people with disabilities or people whose heritage is not Scottish or other British. 

Only 1% of Police Scotland officers are black or minority ethnic (BME), well out of kilter with a national average of 4% and numbers are rising very slowly – from 245 in March 2018 to 254 a year later.

Another 2% of officers are white, but not of a British background, compared to a population average of 8%. Their numbers are rising faster, from 287 to 319 over the year. Just 1% of officers have declared a disability.

Police Scotland, meanwhile, is making noticeable headway in female recruitment. From March 2018 to 2019, the share of women officers has risen from 30% to 31%, with women now accounting for one quarter of promoted posts.That rise came because the share of new recruits who were women rose from around a third to two-fifths in the year to the end of this march. For police staff, the reverse is true, with the share of men rising from 36% to 44%.