Police Scotland is "institutionally racist" and sexist, a report has found, as chief constable Iain Livingstone made a personal commitment to the family of Sheku Bayoh.

While he denied individual officers were racist or discriminatory, he stated that the force as a whole was guilty of "institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination".

It comes after an independent report into London's Met Police by Louise Casey found it to be "broken and rotten", with discriminatory attitudes causing it to lose public trust.

At a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority Board on Thursday the outgoing chief constable said acknowledging the issue exists is “essential” to a commitment to champion equality and become “an anti-racist service”.

Mr Livingstone, while stating "the relentless and intense nature of policing should always be borne in mind when assessing police action", and praising the "great strength" that "anyone can be a police officer" in Scotland, admitted that Police Scotland was institutionally racist.

Mr Livingstone said: "Police Scotland has grown into an organisation known to be compassionate, values-based and highly competent.

"It is well regarded nationally, extremely well regarded internationally, but I know it can improve, must improve.

👉 Click HERE to get a year of The Herald for just £24

"Institutional racism, sexism and institutional discrimination have become iconic terms in the vital battle to tackle injustice. Police officers and staff, including police leaders, can be conflicted both in acknowledging their existence and in using such terms, fearing it would unfairly condemn dedicated and honourable colleagues or that it means no progress has been made since the 1990s.

"Truly, I recognise and understand that conflict. I have experienced that conflict myself over a number of years.

"The meaning of institutional racism set out by Sir William Macpherson in 1999 in his report on the appalling murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 is, rightly, very demanding.

"The phrase, the terminology, however, can be and often is misinterpreted or misrepresented as unfair and personal critical assessments of police officers and police staff as individuals.

"That is not the case.


"Does institutional discrimination mean our police officers and police staff are racist and sexist? No. It absolutely does not. I have great confidence in the character and values of our people. I am proud of Police Scotland and I am proud of my colleagues, proud of my officers and staff.

"So I know and have shared the reservations and concerns about acknowledging that institutional discrimination exists in policing.

"However, 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.

Read More: Sheku Bayoh vigil held in Glasgow to mark 8th anniversary of death in police custody

"Injustice and discrimination are insidious wrongs with deep roots in history, and our work to address institutional discrimination will and must continue beyond me as Chief Constable.

“Acknowledging institutional discrimination, acknowledging institutional racism will, I believe, act as a catalyst to drive progress.

“Our success, the success of policing in Scotland, will be measured by the improved experience of our officers and staff and all the communities, all our fellow citizens who we serve.

“Recognition that institutional racism exists within Police Scotland is a key step, a fundamental step forward, toward being an inclusive service which champions equality for all the people of Scotland.

“It is the right thing to do, it will make policing in Scotlkand even more effective in keeping people safe.

“Understanding and recognising institutional racism, and all forms of institutional discrimination within Police Scotland can and should be a source of confidence and optimism for officers and staff, for our organisation that collectively we can lead the necessary change in our service, in policing and contribute to necessary change across society.”

Mr Livingstone also sent a personal message to the family of Sheku Bayoh, the 31-year-old who died in police custody in 2015, having been arrested on a street in Kirkcaldy.

His official cause of death was given as "sudden death in a man intoxicated…[drugs] whilst under restraint" but questions have been raised about the accounts given in police reports and the behaviour of the arresting officers.

His death is the subject of a public inquiry, and Mr Livingstone addressed the fatality directly.

HeraldScotland: Sheku Bayoh.

He said: "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."

Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Sheku Bayoh's family said: "It seems like a lifetime ago I made legal history in winning a civil action against Glasgow Police for a racist attack, in which they smashed my front teeth smashed out and told me ‘this is what happens to black boys with big mouths’. 

HeraldScotland: From left, Lorraine Bell,  Collette Bell, partner of Sheku Bayoh, Ade Johnson, solicitor Aamer Anwar, sisters Adama Jalloh, Kadi Johnson and Kosna Bayoh  at the Crown Office in Edinburgh wednesday before meeting Lord Advocate..Pic Gordon Terris/The

"For far too long those in policing have refused to accept the undeniable fact that institutional racism exists, as those in uniform continued to rain blows of racism on our communities.

"Today’s statement by the Chief Constable is testament to families like those of Sheku Bayoh, Surjit Singh Chhokar and all those struggles fought by the victims of racial violence and injustice.

"Today is testament to all those officers who took an oath to serve our community, but because of their race, sexuality or gender were persecuted and discriminated against by their Police Service.

Read More: Backlog of trials for gravest crimes won't be cleared until 2026

"The family of Sheku Bayoh want me to thank the Chief Constable for raising his voice for the truth and being brave enough to say what black and Asian communities have known for decades.

"The Sheku Bayoh family also want me to place record their thanks to the Chief Constable for his compassion and empathy, wishing him all the best in his future.

Fighting for a proper investigation, never mind achieving robust and meaningful change, has involved the Bayoh’s in enormous challenges and obstacles at great personal cost to the emotional and physical health of their family, young and old. 

"Their lives were changed forever on the 3rd May 2015, however the Public Inquiry into Sheku’s death has still a long way to go and it would inappropriate to comment further on that or reach any conclusions.

The review by Dame Elish Angiolini KC, highlighted deep rooted racism in Police Scotland, uncovering a ‘hostile culture’ which discriminates against black and Asian officers but also female officers who continue to be victims of horrendous misogyny and at times sexual violence.

"Our communities are tired of grieving at gravesides, tired of trying to prove structural racism exists. Policing by consent is the pillar of any civilised democracy and today is an opportunity for a fundamental reset and restoring trust with all our communities. 

"Over the years there has been little evidence of institutional or individual learning from investigations, inspectorate reports, inquiries and reviews, whilst whistleblowers are systematically bullied, punished and erased- that cannot and must not be allowed to continue."