Accounting for Complexities: An Intersectional Approach to Enhancing Police Practitioner Accountability, Legitimacy & Sustainable Reform

Closed 12 Apr 2023

Opened 4 Apr 2022


The authors undertook a literature review on intersectionality and policing to provide a critical, impact based account of scholarly/academic engagement with policing and intersectionality. This review informs an intersectional good practice toolkit by which police organisations can better engage with the phenomenon of intersectionality and its implications for policing and ‘seldom heard communities’. Additionally, the authors hosted two interactive workshops to share preliminary findings, consult with academics and police practitioners and request feedback.


The review highlighted that intersectional convergence of certain social identities and characteristics can provide complex challenges for policing, for example:

• The impact of micro-interactions between the police and those with intersecting social identities.

• Meso-level institutional issues may mitigate or aggravate negative interactions between the police and those with intersecting identities (such as police culture, resources, specialist training, and/or whether the police have specialist teams or programmes).

• Macro-level factors; the police operate under broader structural influences and power dynamics which negatively impact on certain groups, and which is informed by both historical and contemporary factors such as law, policy, political and public discourses and expectations.


• A review of policy and practitioner engagement; field research engaging specifically with intersectionality in the Scottish context; a review of policies, programmes, and practices which Police Scotland are already undertaking.

• Adopt a set of ‘best principles’ which inform a positive approach to intersectionality and which can be practically applied – these include: examining unconscious biases; enhanced focus on empathy; a ‘whole of society’ approach; a substantive and inclusive model of equality; focusing on underlying and social causes of harm alongside individual agency.

Read the final report

This research project was part of our seldom heard communities programmePolice Scotland, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) joined together to provide significant funding for projects and activities which meet genuine evidence gaps. This work will support Police Scotland to further contact and engagement with all elements of our communities in Scotland, but particularly those groups which are seldom heard. 


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