Given Police Scotland's misogyny problem, can the public trust them to tackle threat from male-supremacist 'incels'? – Laura Waddell

Revelations about the ‘boy’s club’ culture in Police Scotland raise wider concerns

In recent years there has been an avalanche of negative news stories about sexism festering in police forces across Britain. Whistle-blowing has revealed attitudes that should be totally at odds with public service. Can the public place their trust in Police Scotland?

A pattern that can be observed, in instances of women coming forward to report injustices they have suffered, is that it is not unusual to hear they have been fighting to tell their stories for years. Sometimes they are pressured to keep quiet; a common discouraging factor is denial and disbelief.

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In 2018, newly appointed Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said that while he would deal with any concerns that should arise, the suggestion Police Scotland had a problem with misogyny was “very unfair”. Since then, more women have spoken out to criticise a sexist working environment and bullying management culture. Livingstone’s statement, in light of this, has aged badly.

Georgina Gallivan, a former officer with Police Scotland, telling her story for the first time, last week revealed to interviewer Kirsty Wark on BBC Newsnight that she was mocked for being hormonal and told by a superior “women were only on this planet for one thing”. Rhona Malone, another woman who has come forward with her own experience, said making a complaint felt like having a target on her back. Ms Malone eventually won her employment tribunal, but says the toll the experience took on her was severe. “Ultimately it didn't just take my career, it took my mental health as well.”

Others have echoed the experience of complaints being met with a hostile “boy’s club” attitude. Last year, former officer Gemma McRae told the Guardian: “Police Scotland are currently making public statements about tackling sexism and misogyny, however, that very same management ignored my complaints. There’s always this attitude of trying to cover it up.”

Last month, the force revealed their latest plans to tackle violence against women would include a strategy targeting ‘incels’, followers of a male-supremacist movement tracked by counter-terrorism programmes as a growing threat to home security. Experts say incel-linked online spaces are becoming more violent and more extreme, while social media algorithms can push those susceptible to misogyny further down a hateful path.

Tackling these threats requires a sophisticated understanding of how misogyny works. The public might well wonder whether the police forces of Britain are up to the job.

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