“We have asked Police Scotland to look at the whole macho culture within the firearms department”

Claims of a macho culture of bullying and sexism within an elite firearms unit must be investigated, according to the Police Federation.

The national police force has been urged to mount an inquiry into the claims at a unit where 15 highly-trained officers, including four women, have left in three years.

The Federation, representing rank and file officers, had triggered a Professional Standards inquiry into Inspector James Law, who leads the firearms teams covering the Central Belt.

He has now returned to his position, however, following the investigation into claims he threatened officers at a briefing.

Later this month, former firearms officer Rhona Malone, 55, will tell an industrial tribunal she refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when she left the force because she was determined to see an end to bullying within Police Scotland’s squad.

She said: “I refused to be silenced because it wouldn’t have stopped the bullying and sexist behaviour. All I wanted was to see that change.”

Malone, who became a firearms officer for seven years after more than a decade on the force, complained when her boss, Inspector Keith Warhurst, refused to allow two female officers to patrol together.

She also claimed Law wrongly alleged she had acted unprofessionallly by throwing down her ammunition belt.

She said: “Instead of fixing the problem, Police Scotland closed ranks against me. I felt I was the problem because I dared ask for attitudes to change.

“I felt alone and abandoned for speaking up against something I knew was wrong.

“Things escalated. I was signed off work with stress and applied for early retirement due to illness. It took over a year for that to be formalised and I was driven to the edge of despair.”

Instead of being on duty at the upcoming COP26 conference, she will be giving evidence in her case which could last 10 days and has already cost £60,000 in legal fees.

The former officer’s case was highlighted in a report by former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini which criticised Police Scotland.

Malone believes an independent expert should be called in to examine the reasons behind every officer who leaves before retirement age to fully investigate whether there has been any culture change.

Angiolini’s report into police complaints, investigations and misconduct issues found a series of areas of concern, including the experience of women officers in the force.

She said:“From the large number of women in particular who have been in touch with me, the force continues to use NDA’s, which basically gag anyone from speaking out.

“Huge amounts of public money is being used to cover up the unhealthy culture Dame Angiolini highlighted.”

Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, David Kennedy, said: “We can confirm that we lodged a complaint regarding the conduct of a senior officer from the armed unit following an incident at the end of last year.

“We have now asked Police Scotland to look at the whole macho culture and behaviour within the firearms department.

“In particular, we need to examine why so many of those highly trained officers are leaving the unit.

“There have been a number of issues in the past which we have raised concerns about, including the macho attitude which has historically prevailed within that particular unit.”

The organisation say they are “continually asking Police Scotland to review their procedures” so that everybody is treated in the same manner, right down to ensuring all have access to suitable equipment.

Kennedy said: “The Scottish Police Federation strive to ensure female officers are treated equally and fairly, and we take robust action, including industrial tribunals, when we believe a situation warrants it.”

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