Sexism in Scotland’s police to be highlighted in BBC documentary

The first episode features former female officers recalling how they were forced to give up their careers when they got married. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
The first episode features former female officers recalling how they were forced to give up their careers when they got married. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
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Former officers are set to lift the lid on decades of sexism in Scotland’s police service in a major new television documentary series.

The BBC Scotland programme will recall how female officers faced jibes they had won promotion to “make up their numbers” or had slept with one of their bosses.

The three-part series, which is said to recount “the stories of the officers behind the uniform”, will feature accounts including new female recruits being forced to have their backsides stamped on arrival at their station.

The first episode, to be broadcast on Monday, features former female officers recalling how they were forced to give up their careers when they got married, treated like nursery teachers and even told chasing after potential criminals was “unladylike”.

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BBC Scotland said the opening instalment of The Force: The Story of Scotland’s Police, would show how it took decades before there was any change in the “deep-rooted sexism” within the ranks of the police service.

Former male officers will be shown saying that some die-hards felt their female colleagues “should be at home making the dinner”, while others have admitted some behaviour with female officers would probably now result in a prison sentence.

The series is narrated by award-winning Scottish crime writer Denisa Mina, who recalls how the police force was long seen as a “job for the boys”.

Former detective chief inspector Nannette Pollock says in the documentary: “When I was 26 I decided to change my career and went into the recruiting office. If anything was ever going to put me off, it was the person I spoke to.

“I said, ‘I’m thinking of joining the police and I see you’ve got a sign in the window.’ He said, ‘Wait a wee minute, hen. Have I got this wrong here?’

I said, ‘How do you mean?’ He said, “Does that sign say anything about women?’”

Recalling working in the separate “policewomen’s department”, she added: “We didn’t go out on beats, as such, we went out ‘on patrol’, because we weren’t responsible enough to have a beat.

“We did the same training, some of us did quite well in exams, and yet we came back and it was totally different policing. We were really like a nursery. We looked after found children and lost children and bad children and good children. If anyone was arrested and they had children with them guess where they went – it was the policewomen’s department.

“The laugh was most of the officers handing the children over were married men and fathers who had experience of children, whereas we didn’t.”

Retired sergeant Cameron Shanks tells the programme: “There was a thing when female officers came back from the college that nowadays would be completely frowned upon, and, quite rightly, you would probably end up in jail. They used to stamp the female’s backside. The female became the property of that particular station.”

Rona Grimmer, a former detective inspector, adds: “Some of my colleagues would be date-stamped on their bums. That was the culture we came into.

“There was some of them that wouldn’t speak to you, that just thought, ‘Why are you here doing the same job?’”