Police officers face religion survey to test claims of bias
Sat 3 Jun 2006
The survey also seeks information on sexuality and gender, after concern that minority groups are grossly under-represented in the upper echelons of the police service.
Members of the Catholic Church have previously called for the move to tackle alleged sectarianism within the police's ranks. The audit has been launched to establish how accurately the police service is representing the communities they serve.
The Executive has pledged to stamp out sectarianism, dubbed "Scotland's shame" by the justice minister, Cathy Jamieson. But despite this, little is known about the extent to which religious discrimination exists within public bodies.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church last night welcomed the move. "At the moment we don't know whether there is a problem within the police service. This will bring some much-needed transparency," he said.
A Church source added: "I'm aware of anecdotal evidence that a 'stained glass ceiling' exists in the police service. I know Catholics in the police who have not been able to get beyond the rank of sergeant because they were Catholic, and were not Masons."
The officer leading the project yesterday said he hoped the project would address the police's "huge image problem".
Chief Superintendent George Denholm, of Lothian and Borders Police,
said: "This is about finding out how recruits from different backgrounds are getting on in the police service. We want to sell ourselves to the public and employ the best people.
"There's a huge image problem. People's perception of who we are is totally different than they want the police service to be.
"Questions have been raised by the Catholic Church who say people serving in the police service are hitting a 'stained glass ceiling', stopping Catholic members of the police force being promoted. That there is some sort of Masonic conspiracy."
He denied such accusations but admitted representation in the police could be improved. "I think we are doing particularly well but maybe there is a risk that problems will be exposed. However, I think we have far more to be proud of than to keep secret."
Inequality within the police service with regards to race and gender has already been clearly established. About 1 per cent the police service is from a black or ethnic minority background - compared with about 2 per cent of the population. A recent survey found women make up 20 per cent of Scotland's 10,000 police constables but only 9 per cent of higher ranks.
Monsignor Joseph Creegan, of the Catholic Church's Dunkeld diocese, said he believed sectarianism was once rife in the police service. But he said this was no longer a major problem and claimed the audit was taking political correctness too far.
He said: "With the best will in the world, it's impossible to get an exact replica of society in any organisation. They should be getting the best person for the job. I think asking everyone if they are Church of Scotland or Roman Catholic is going too far."
But Mr Denholm insisted accusation that the voluntary survey was "political correctness gone mad" were wide of the mark.
"If you don't measure things like gender, religion and sexual orientation, how do you know whether initiatives to promoted more representation in the police service are working?" he said.