POLICE chiefs have vowed to tackle sexual harassment among police staff — the back-room workers who support forces’ uniformed oficers — following a report published today highlighting predatory behaviour instigated by colleagues.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the report by Unison and the London School of Economics & Political Sciences (LSE) showed outdated and unacceptable behaviour that must be rooted out.
Some 1,776 workers in England, Wales and Scotland, mostly female, were surveyed. Four per cent said they were pressed into having sex with colleagues and 8 per cent said that sexual favours could result in preferential treatment.
NPCC spokesman 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.”
Mr Williams said the council was committed to developing a “comprehensive action plan” by October.
“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,” he said.
Half of the staff questioned had heard sexualised jokes being told repeatedly at work.
The survey also revealed that 21 per cent of respondents had experienced inappropriate staring or leering and almost one in five had been touched in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.
Public service union Unison’s assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said that sexual harassment has no place in the modern workplace.
“Perpetrators must be confronted and dealt with immediately,” she said. “Otherwise their behaviour could escalate from filthy jokes to more serious forms of sexual harassment.
“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.”
Nearly two in five respondents said keeping quiet was easier than reporting the harassment and 37 per cent said nothing would be done if they did complain.
LSE professor Jennifer Brown, who led the research, said the results are consistent with reports in police forces internationally as well as other workplace surveys.
She said: “When staff are already under pressure, what they need is to be able to work in an environment that respects them rather than generates yet further stress.”
A third of respondents said the harassment increased their stress levels and a quarter said it hindered them from completing their work.
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