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UK’s male police officers facing hundreds of sexual harassment complaints

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This undated file photo shows British police officers patrolling an area on the outskirts of London.

Hundreds of British people have claimed they were sexually harassed by male police officers over the past six years, with only a fraction of cases leading to dismissal or resigning of the accused.

The revelation was made in a report published by The Guardian on Tuesday, saying more than half of British police forces received almost 450 complaints from staff and members of the public about sexual harassment, including accusations against senior detectives and inspectors.

Julian Williams, chief constable and the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for professional ethics, said sexual harassment must be rooted out.

“This behavior 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 behavior exists, it requires the strongest response from policing, including the removal of individuals from the service,” he said.

The report said 24 police staff, including constables, community support officers, crime scene investigators, clerks and detention officers had been dismissed over harassment complaints and 74 faced management action.

A total of 48 staff members resigned or retired after a complaint had been lodged.

“This behavior 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,” Ben Priestley, a national police officer said.

The British newspaper also shed light on sexual harassment cases in uniformed services in the UK, such as the police, by referring to a Unison survey of almost 1,800 police staff in England, Wales and Scotland.

The survey was reported to have found that half of the personnel had heard sexualized jokes and one in five had received a sexually explicit email or text from a colleague.

About one in 25 said they had been pressured to have sex, and one in 12 was told that sexual favors could result in preferential treatment, according to The Guardian.

Professor Jennifer Brown, from the Mannheim center for criminology at the London School of Economics, who led Unison’s research in this area, described the report as a “hidden problem” in the police force.

“It’s partly because of the gender ratio, more men in the working environment and sexual politics, so the idea that women are encroaching into areas that men have a monopoly over,” Brown noted.

Women account for 29.8 percent of the police establishment in England and Wales, with 6,463 holding the rank of sergeant or above.

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