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News > United Kingdom

Hundreds of Sexual Harassment Complaints Soil UK Police Force

  • A survey found a culture of sexually offensive dialogue normalized in police offices across England, Wales, and Scotland.

    A survey found a culture of sexually offensive dialogue normalized in police offices across England, Wales, and Scotland. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 December 2018

One in 25 people were pressured into sexual relations; one in twelve were promised better treatment for sexual favors.

Nearly 450 complaints of sexual harassment against half of Britain's male police force have been filed since 2012, a Guardian investigation revealed Tuesday.


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Although only 28 of the 43 police departments provided data, using the Freedom of Information act, the UK publication discovered that an abundance of complaints were filed by both civilians and staff members.

An anonymous female police told the Guardian, “The backlash I got from colleagues has put me off the idea of reporting it again … It was a weird thing to say. In any force you will have one or two managers who have a reputation for using their power (over women).

“What makes it worse in policing is that as a profession we should know better. We are often dealing with vulnerable people and criminals. We are supposed to look after people,” she said.

The study prompted calls to “uproot” the toxic behavior and uphold professional ethics, the Nations Police Chief’s Council representative Chief Constable Julian Williams said.

“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. Where predatory behaviour exists, it requires the strongest response from policing, including the removal of individuals from the service,” Williams said.

A survey of some 1,800 police personnel found a culture of sexually inappropriate conversations, topics, and jokes normalized in departments across England, Wales, and Scotland, Unison’s national officer, Ben Priestley, said.

Around one in 25 people have been pressured into sexual relations with officers, while one in twelve were promised better treatment in exchange for sexual favors. Experts attribute the crisis in part to gender dynamics in the office where women constitute 29.8 percent of police personnel region wide.

“This behaviour has no place in the modern workplace. Neither staff nor the public should ever feel intimidated or degraded when dealing with the police. This goes against the very purpose of having police forces watching over and keeping communities safe.”

Although the majority of incidents are handled internally, some believe the punishments are light or politically influenced, calculated by pension and social status within the department.

Criminology Professor Jennifer Brown said, “It’s a messy landscape which should be overhauled but in the current climate I am not sure there is appetite to do that.”

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