Police admission of institutional racism is ‘monumental historic’
The First Minister said Sir Iain Livingstone’s comments as a black person who was stopped by police more than a dozen times as a young adult were “monumental” and “historic”.
On Thursday morning, in his final appearance before the Scottish Police Authority board, Sir Iain said he had “great confidence in the character and values” of his officers and staff.
“However, it is right for me, right for me as chief constable, to state clearly that there is institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination.”
“Police Scotland are institutionally racist and discriminatory.
“Public acknowledgment of these institutional issues is essential to our absolute commitment to advocating for equality and becoming an anti-racist service. It is also critical to our resolve to bring about broader change in society.
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The comments – which came in part as part of a public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh, a black man who died after contacting police in Fife in 2015 – were made by Douglas Ross in Holyrood.
Speaking during First Minister’s Question Time in Holyrood, Mr Yousaf said: “There is no doubt that institutional racism exists in our society and I would like to take a moment to say that the police chief’s testimony as a person of color is monumental and is historical.” .
“I remember raising issues of racism with the police, back then with Strathclyde Police, when as a young boy I was stopped and searched more than a dozen times, whether in my car, out walking with mine friends on the street or in…” airports.
“Therefore, the police chief’s acknowledgment is very welcome indeed.”
Mr Yousaf stressed that Sir Iain’s comments were not “indicative of individual police officers who we know put themselves at risk every day to protect us”.
The First Minister added that acknowledging the issues of institutional racism and institutional misogyny within the force is the “first step needed to then break down the existing institutional and structural barriers”.
He said he was “obliged to work with Police Scotland on these issues”.
Speaking to journalists following the FMQs, Mr Yousaf said the comments were significant and a vindication of those who had raised concerns about racial profiling and stops and searches.
“I felt quite emotional listening to the Chief Constable make that statement.
“That means a lot. I mentioned in the chamber that I can remember more than a dozen times as a young teenager, being stopped and searched, walking the streets with my friends, at airports, being stopped in cars and was searched and asked why I was driving around in the car at night.”
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During the meeting, Mr Ross, whose wife Krystle is a police officer, called for urgent action to “overhaul the way Police Scotland deals with legitimate complaints within the police force”.
He said the current system is “not fit for purpose”.
Mr Ross said: “No one should be afraid of raising a concern. This is clearly unacceptable.
“Officials should be able to raise legitimate issues without suffering consequences.”
Mr Yousaf said he would look into the matter. But he said improving the process should be a priority as well as improving the culture.
“That’s why the Chief Constable’s testimony was so monumental, because it shows from the very top of the organization that culture just isn’t acceptable.”