Earlier this month during the Chief's forum, a question was asked about raising the rainbow flag to show support to the LGBT+ community. Below is the response:
I completely agree with your comment that Police Scotland must represent the communities it serves. I have made that very point consistently since becoming Chief Constable because it is at the core of how we serve the public. In fact, my first act as Chief Constable was to explain this to the newest recruits at Tulliallan. I have always been clear - and I have said this repeatedly over the course of 2020 - that policing in Scotland draws its legitimacy from the consent of our fellow citizens who we serve. This has been a vital element of our response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in public confidence in policing increasing and remaining high.
That bond of trust is maintained and enhanced by a police service in Scotland which must reflect and represent our communities and meets the needs of those communities with public service founded on our values of integrity, fairness and respect, and a commitment to upholding and enabling human rights of every citizen. Those values are demonstrated every day by officers and staff up and the down the whole of this country doing what is an extremely challenging and demanding job. It is crucial that the culture of Police Scotland is welcoming and inclusive to all and that all our people are supported to thrive and flourish to be themselves so that we fully reflect and represent our communities. And of course in doing that our service to the public will be enhanced.I am very grateful for the significant and ongoing support and challenge that comes from a number of highly engaged diversity staff associations in this regard.
I am committed to enabling all voices to be heard and to celebrating the diversity of our officers and staff. This is vital to underline the great contribution a diverse and inclusive workforce makes to policing in Scotland and to ensuring our legitimacy in all our communities. But simply flying a flag above Tulliallan is not the solution to this. I do not believe it is appropriate to fly any flag above our buildings other than the Saltire or the Union flag. There are other ways in which we can show our support.
In that regard, in October, SEMPER helped Police Scotland to celebrate Black History Month. And in November, I addressed the Scottish LGBTI Police Association’s 30th anniversary celebrations and underlined my gratitude, admiration and support for the association and their work. It was an opportunity to reflect on the great progress that has been made since the early days of the association, when meetings were held in secret, and to consider the continuing challenges which must be relentlessly confronted to counter discrimination.
Like many organisations and sectors, increasing representation of minority ethnicities remains a challenge for policing that requires relentless commitment. I was extremely grateful to those who stepped-forward to share their lived experiences, providing insight and inspiration for others. Our diversity staff associations also cut across a number of other communities, from The Scottish Police Disability and Carers Association, to a number of faith-based associations such as the Scottish Police Muslim Association and the Christian Police Association Scotland. I fully support and pay tribute to the dedicated work and contribution of all these groups and associations. I am not aware of any other major public body which has such a wide, committed, and engaged group of associations representing the rich diversity of the people of Scotland.
These associations provide informal support networks and help to create an essential space to candidly discuss the experiences of members and make those voices heard right across the whole of the organisation, where necessary supporting and challenging the leadership team. Those experiences and voices inform the service, and the public indeed, of issues of real concern and the significant work policing still has to do to be fully welcoming and inclusive for all people. I am absolutely clear that these associations and their members, indeed everyone in policing, are key to building and maintaining a service that is fully representative and reflective of our communities; reflective and representative of the people we serve. This work must be driven forward with urgency and rigour.
I therefore agree with the recommendation from Dame Elish Angiolini in her recent report that there should be a review of equality matters with the support of an external individual or agency to accelerate the progress already being made in the service. Earlier this month, I informed the Scottish Police Authority of my intention to commission additional, independent, and expert support to work with policing in Scotland to better understand the experiences of minority groups in the service and to ensure appropriate support is available where it is required. This work should be focused on organisational learning and on finding practical applications and improvements to working practices. It must not simply be an academic exercise, we need actual and practical improvements. We know issues around prejudice and discrimination permeate all elements of Scottish society. But I think it is vital that, given policing’s unique status and significance in civic life, the service strives to be an exemplar and to take leadership in driving change for everyone in society.