As I find myself approaching retirement from the police service, I feel I must voice some concerns regarding recruitment and the gender-equality gap that exists within Police Scotland.
Scotland’s police force continues to be under-represented in all of the equality strands and this is particularly evident from a gender perspective.
Police strength data shows there continues to be markedly more male (72 per cent) than female police officers within the service. The statistics are also markedly worse in the promoted ranks and within specialist departments.
Currently, female officers hold only 20 per cent of promoted posts and within the force executive only one position out of 11 is held by a woman. The formation of a single police force in Scotland in itself has created additional barriers to some under-represented groups joining the service as well as those applying for promotion.
In particular, the removal of mobility protection for new officers and staff is a significant barrier for those with caring responsibilities.
Already there are signs that the implementation of “one size fits all” policy is having an adverse impact on the recruitment of women.
Indeed, some recruits have withdrawn during their initial training period because of a policy which sees officers potentially being required to move significant distances across Scotland. In terms of females or indeed anyone with caring responsibilities, the impact of such a policy on their families and dependants makes this difficult and in my estimation is not only unfair but is discriminatory. While operational requirements will always necessitate the movement of staff, this should surely be necessary only in exceptional circumstances.
With an ageing population, elderly care is going to be a growing area of responsibility and perhaps some positive action, in terms of having consideration for those with caring responsibilities, would make sense.
In terms of police staff, females make up 62 per cent of the current workforce although the majority of senior posts are once again held by men. The detrimental impact that reform of the service could potentially have on female police staff members is a great concern.
Over 80 per cent of the Police Scotland budget is made up of staff costs. Police officers cannot be made redundant, therefore we are now seeing plans for centralisation of police staff posts, which is likely to lead to job cuts and this will have a greater detrimental impact on females.
I do appreciate the desire expressed by the Scottish Government that public sector reform should be implemented without compulsory redundancies. However, job losses in the public sector have affected women more than men.
For me this isn’t just about gender, it’s about being able to reflect the values and cultures of the communities we serve.
It’s about personal and organisational values and, yes, it’s about equality and fairness. But ultimately it’s about improving our performance and adopting a more customer-focused approach to policing.
In order for the service to achieve its organisational purpose of “keeping people safe”, it is essential it recruits, retains and deploys the best possible police officers, staff and special constables in every role.
We are in danger of only recruiting people who have no ties to a geographic location and therefore significantly shrinking the potential recruitment pool.
Female officers don’t want sympathy from their male colleagues and they don’t expect to get a job, promotion or any other opportunity just because they are female.
What they deserve to expect, though, is equality of opportunity.
(Serving police superintendent and former chair of the Scottish Women’s Development Forum)