Racist and sexist emails are no joke. Period

Lothian and Borders police were stunned this week by the news that 17 officers and four civilian staff based in the Borders are under investigation over emails said to be of a “racist and sexual nature” circulating on an internal police computer system.

And prior to TheSouthern going to press yesterday, Scottish Borders councillor Donald Moffat (Mid Berwickshire, SNP), the current vice-convener of Lothian & Borders Police Board, told us that the staff involved were being transferred away from the region as a result.

That Lothian and Borders Police have acted quickly to stamp out this kind of behaviour has to be commended, and shows that the force recognises how such attitudes can not only damage public confidence, but can also damage an employer in the eyes of their work force, the majority of whom would never think to carry on in this manner.

Susan Hart, chairwoman of Scottish Borders Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Forum, agreed with Mr Moffat’s view on the issue of confidence, saying: “We have never had any reason to lose confidence in the police here in the Borders and they have always been very pro-active in picking up on anything derogatory towards members of the LGBT community.”

It’s all too easy to see how misguided ‘jokes’ can soon turn into bullying and harrassment, and, in this day and age when people’s conduct – or misconduct – over the internet, including Twitter and Facebook, is often under scrutiny, it’s hard to understand how anyone, let alone officers in our police force, could think this appropriate behaviour.

It is hard enough to stamp out such attitudes and behaviours in society, but if the people we are relying on to ensure laws and standards are upheld are failing to adhere to some basic principles, then it makes it all the harder to get the message across that such attitudes are not acceptable. Period.