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Victim services

Addressing the culture of sexism and misogyny in the Police

A group of people sit in a circle having a group discussion. The conversation is led by a professional which is in the centre of the frame with her back to the camera.

Chief Inspector Richards writes for us about how Hertfordshire Constabulary are, with the support of Catch22, proactively exploring, investigating and addressing negative cultures in their police force.

The current problem

You may have seen the recent news following the publishing of the damning report from Baroness Casey’s review of the Metropolitan Police’s culture and standards. The review found institutionalised racism, sexism and misogyny within the force; that unacceptable behaviour has gone unchallenged and therefore prospered; and that a culture of denial exists in relation to these issues.

The Metropolitan Police is the biggest force in the UK housing national police teams (e.g. the National Crime Agency and national counter-terrorism units). It could therefore be argued that other forces will look to the Met for advice, guidance and motivation in how to run their respective forces. The National Police Chiefs Council and HMIC acknowledged that there is potential for this to be a widespread concern across police forces in the UK and, as such, have asked forces to address the problem.

A proactive approach

Work to better understand people’s experiences and encourage officers and staff in Hertfordshire Constabulary to recognise and call out inappropriate behaviour and language began over a year ago, including the launch of an internal awareness raising campaign.

As part of this drive to reflect on lived experiences and further improve in Hertfordshire, we decided to take a proactive approach to identifying if such culture exists within our force. We opted to set up ‘listening circles’ for our female staff to determine if they had experienced, or were experiencing, anything they feel has a negative impact on them, their career, progression, or experience as an employee within Hertfordshire Constabulary.

We felt it was important to have an independent facilitator for the circles to allow female employees to feel comfortable to share their experiences. Because Catch22 deliver the Victim Service for Hertfordshire, we chose them to provide the independent facilitator as we have worked very closely together over the years and view them as a trusted provider. Emma Jones, Catch22’s Assistant Director for Victim Services, who came to facilitate the three circles, Emma also has experience delivering Catch22’s internal Women’s Health and Social Group.

45 participants attended across the three groups, and we ran the circle in a restorative manner to allow participants to feel at ease and share their thoughts and feelings. We had lots of discussions covering topics such as lack of female leadership for role models; experiences of maternity, child care and work life balances; the line between ‘banter’ and inappropriate behaviour; and barriers to progression in the organisation.

The listening circle created a psychologically safe platform for us all to share our experiences. I enjoyed taking part; it was thought provoking and I felt there were many points of value that will be taken away to be reviewed/developed.”

– Participant

The results have been invaluable information for the force and have given us insight into how it feels to be an employee in Hertfordshire Constabulary. Not only this, it has given senior leaders an opportunity to address issues and raise awareness of support available to officers who wish to challenge inappropriate behaviour and discrimination.

We intend to hold these circles on a regular basis to help us track progress and would strongly recommend all forces go through a similar proactive exercise to address culture.

If you wish to hold similar listening circles within your police institution and would like to employ an independent facilitator from Catch22, please contact justice@catch-22.org.uk.