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Police vow to end sexual harassment among staff

Police chiefs have vowed to focus on tackling sexual harassment in their forces across England, Scotland and Wales.

This pledge comes after a report published by UNISON, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Surrey, revealed many instances of inappropriate behaviour among staff. This included leering, sexual gestures, inappropriate touching and being pressured to have sex.

The survey, questioning 1,776 police staff throughout England, Scotland and Wales, did not speak to police officers, but instead focused on police staff including clerks, community support officers, crime scene investigators and fingerprint experts. Two-thirds (66%) of the survey respondents were female and 34% male.

Sexual Harassment Findings

Results showed that 4% of those surveyed had been pressured to have sex with colleagues and 8% had been given the ultimatum to perform sexual acts in return for preferential treatment.

Almost half (49%) of the staff stated they had heard sexualised jokes in their workplace, while 19% had received a sexually explicit email or text from a fellow colleague.

The report also revealed that a third (33%) faced intrusive questioning about their private lives, 18% had witnessed colleagues making sexual gestures and 12% had either witnessed or been subject to unwanted touching or kissing.

Almost a third (32%) stated the sexual harassment they had received had increased their stress levels, and 25% said it hindered them from completing their work.

Those questioned also admitted that they would most likely not report any sexual harassment in the workplace, believing that it would not make a difference. 39% of respondents said keeping the harassment to themselves would be easier, while 37% felt that nothing would be done if they came forward. The gossiping culture in the workplace could play a part in many preferring to keep their experiences private, as 34% of staff stated that they did not believe that the matter would be kept confidential.

National Police Chief’s Council Lead for Professional Ethics, Chief Constable Julian Williams stated that the research shined a light on “outdated and unacceptable behaviour”. She continued to say, “This behaviour falls short of the high standards set in the Code of Ethics, which each member of the policing profession is expected to uphold.”

“Some of the behaviour described is predatory and requires the strongest response from police with individuals removed from the service. Other behaviours like the repeated telling of sexualised jokes may not be malicious in intent but are misguided and damaging, and our focus will be on finding effective ways of challenging them.”

Due to the high levels of sexual harassment discovered, the National Police Chief’s Council are developing an action plan aimed to be set for October to help put an end to the harassment in the police force.

Speaking on the results, UNISON assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea said, “No member of police staff should feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated at work. Employees who witness or experience this abhorrent and unacceptable behaviour need reassurance that they will be listened to, and believed, and that effective action will be taken to end the harassment.”

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