College releases guidance on tackling sexism in the police through communication campaigns

PR specialists in policing across England and Wales have been given new guidelines for tackling sexism among officers and staff through ‘behaviour change communication campaigns’.

Nov 30, 2023
By Paul Jacques

Published on Thursday (November 30) by the College of Policing, the guide is underpinned with evidence so that communicators can use it in campaigns. It works by focusing on areas that change behaviour.

“It provides seven areas that can be considered, which starts with selecting audiences and behaviours and ends with an evaluation,” says the college, which has released the guide for thousands of communications staff working across the 43 police forces.

Dr Esther Flanagan, a behaviour change expert at the College of Policing, said a huge attraction for the guide is expected to be its simplicity.

“Behaviour change communication campaigns can often look difficult to put together and hard to execute however they don’t need to be,” she said. “This guide breaks down complex science into bitesize pieces.

“We’ve worked closely with police force communications teams and experts from across the service to develop it and now staff can make informed evidence-based choices, focusing on the things that are most likely to change behaviour.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s behavioural science.”

The guide was launched at the Association of Police Communicators conference and is available to all communications professionals on the College of Policing website.

Dr Flanagan added: “The guide is aimed specifically at police communicators, but it can be used by all public sector communicators or human resources teams to tackle sexism.

“There is no easy or quick way to change ingrained long time behaviours, so a concerted efforted is needed across many areas, not just communications.”

The College of Policing says it is working on a 12-point plan to tackle sexism and misogyny and the guide forms part of that plan. Other proposals include ways to track and act on wrongful behaviour early and training supervisors to spot and tackle the issue head on.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, chief executive officer of the College of Policing, said: “I’m really encouraged by the significant amount of great work already underway in forces to tackle misogyny and sexism, including some brilliant insight based behaviour change communications campaigns.

“To get maximum impact from this work and deliver lasting change that eradicates misogyny from our culture we must work together, follow the evidence and adopt a joined-up evidence based approach.

“I’m delighted the College of Policing is providing this dedicated and evidence based guide for police communicators. They perform a vital job and while we know they will not be able to change culture through good communications alone, it’s important police chiefs support them as much as possible.”

The guide is available on the College of Policing website.

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