ONE of Scotland's most senior female police officers said the findings of a report that found 86% of women in the force had experienced misogyny and sexism were "shocking".

Assistant Chief Constable Emma Bond presented a new report on misogyny within Police Scotland to a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), highlighting key figures that are cause for "concern".

During the SPA committee meeting, the senior police officer said recognition of the need for work in this area first emerged in 2021 and was not a reaction to the chief constable’s statement last week on institutional misogyny in the force. 

She said: "Police Scotland had a real desire to understand the experience of colleagues within the organisation to understand any of the action planning carried out to resolve the issues would not be dealing with symptoms but actually addressing some of those underlying causes.

"To inform that work we carried out a staff survey last year.

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"We are very grateful of the fact of the 528 colleagues who participated in the survey and I think probably fair to say that survey supported by some of the focus groups that followed provided what has proven to be quite difficult to read, shocking, but necessary to acknowledge the experience of colleagues within the organisation."

The report revealed that nearly 90% of female officers surveyed have either been subjected to and/or witnessed sexism and misogyny.

It also found roughly four out of five - 81% - colleagues agree sexism and misogyny is an issue within the force.

On the 81% figure, the officer said this was a "concerning statistic" but reinforced Chief Constable Iain Livingstone's statement of last week. 

She added, on the figure of nearly 90%, she added : "That's regrettably across the whole of the organisation and length of service. 

"Across the organisation we might assume this is something that is more common the longer your service but actually 86% have experienced [sexism or misogyny]. 

"A key area of concern for us and one we will work to address is that [40% of respondents said] they didn't feel empowered to come forward and to step in and challenge [sexism] at the time or to raise the issues they had identified.

"One thing to reflect is 50% of those surveyed did agree the organisation is tackling it."

Bond told the committee that steps were taken within Police Scotland so that if one female officer was working among a group of men, another woman officer would be added.

The committee chair said this was "concerning" and asked if the measure was taken to "protect" the female officer or whether there was a suggestion that it was ok for male officers to "banter" if there was no women there.

Bond replied: "No, absolutely not." 

The report is the first of an independent review group, which gave statistics from findings of an anonymous survey and also detailed first-hand accounts from officers and staff of racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as people being “punished” or “sidelined” for raising concerns.

Officers surveyed reported that those who raise concerns about misogyny and sexism fear being labelled a "grass" by colleagues and having a "target" put on their back.

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The document also said a "boys' club culture" exists in parts of the service, sexist behaviour is often dismissed as "banter", and if someone challenges it they are seen as "not able to take a joke" and isolated from the team.

Ms Bond said it is more worrying that 19% of respondents do not think sexism and misogyny is an issue, saying this demonstrates a "gap" in awareness of the problem that needs to be addressed.

SPA interim chair Fiona McQueen said she was concerned to read details of specific incidents of sexism in the report and asked what is being done to assist those who have reported such behaviour.

Ms Bond replied: "We are very alive to the fact that there are undoubtedly individuals within the organisation who have had very personal experiences and been directly impacted by some of these issues.

"So while there may be broader procedural policy related matters, what we will do is review our grievance procedures and processes."

Asked how confident she is that Police Scotland is now listening to female officers, Ms Bond said she is certain attitudes are changing and she is prepared to be held "totally accountable" for turning things around.

"I genuinely believe that colleagues in the organisation can be very confident," she said. "I think the big priority now is to take action to address the issues that colleagues have raised.

"I will provide updates of the work that is being undertaken and I am more than happy to be totally accountable.

"I've been a police officer for 23 years. I am very alive to the issues that colleagues experience on a daily basis."

Her comments came a week after outgoing Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone admitted the force "is institutionally racist and discriminatory".

He went on to tell the SPA there is "no place" in the force for people who harbour prejudices, and that the behaviour of colleagues who have been found to hold such views is "utterly condemned".

A representative from Unison, David Malcolm, who was present at the meeting expressed concerns that union members are not being fully consulted in how the force makes meaningful change. 

David Malcolm said there was a concern that the trade unions have not been properly consulted and employees given "a voice". 

Another board member pointed to figures show widespread lack of trust and confidence in the Metropolitan police from women in London and said this "concerning trend" must be avoided in Scotland.