The other night we were reminiscing about some of the things that happened while we were working in America. Turns out that while I was getting to know the girl from Fudgie Wudgie, two of my colleagues were in a bar rating boobs.
Long story short… They were the only patrons of a lock in at the bar they were in. The barmaid gave them lots of free drinks. Her stripper friend arrived from a night working. The girls ended up pulling their t-shirts over their heads and asking my colleagues to rate their boobs. My colleagues suitable response was to expose their man boobs and the night only ended when it was suggested that they all get in to a taxi to go somewhere to shoot up.
So, yeah, boobs. The exposing of boobs has been in the press last week when Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe, 47, of Manchester Metropolitan Police confronted a junior colleague, Superintendent Sarah Jackson, at a Women In Policing conference and condemned her for having a “tit job”.
I’m not going to be able to rewrite this, so I’ll let The Independent take up the story:
A misconduct hearing heard twice-married, mother-of-three Ms Sutcliffe exposed her breasts after claiming Supt Jackson was not being taken seriously due to the cosmetic procedure.
She said Ms Jackson’s credibility was “zero”, warned she would miss out on promotion and claimed the officer was a “laughing stock” amongst senior male colleagues, the panel sitting at Greater Manchester Police HQ heard.
To prove her point, Ms Sutcliffe opened the front of her dress and said: “Look at these – look at these. These are the breasts of someone who has had three children. I know they’re ugly but I don’t feel the need to pump myself with silicone to get self-esteem.”
In the hour-long exchange, Ms Sutcliffe went on to say: “Sarah, it doesn’t matter how hard you work now because you will always just be known as the girl who had the tit job.”
However, an independent panel’s recommendation is that ACC Sutcliffe should be allowed to stay on in her role. It’s important to state that, right now, no decision has been made – that happens in the New Year. Should ACC Sutcliffe keep her job, though, the reasons are going to be a very interesting read.
A police sergeant from the force wrote to the MEN suggesting that a more junior officer would be dismissed in a heart beat if it was them committing the offence. The sergeant lists mitigating factors about why ACC Sutcliffe may remain in post, such as stress and “welfare issues”.
From a purely procedural perspective, one wonders whether the disciplinary commission are doing anyone any favours if this is the result they come to. They should not also be testing suitability to lead but ability, and the inference from the sergeant in the MEN is that this does not highlight an assistant chief constable coping with the pressures of being a true leader.
Handled correctly, it may be better to remove ACC Sutcliffe from duties for longer than her fully paid, £109000 a year, suspension for her own benefit. I’m not saying to sack her, but sometimes with punishment we should be looking to help.
Of course, if ACC Sutcliffe does remain in post, is she actually vindicated as being correct in how women are treated in the workplace? This can go both ways. Positively, it would be great to believe that the right person, irrespective of gender, is given such important opportunities.
Negatively, where leaders should be setting inspirational examples to their colleagues, ACC Sutcliffe’s actions going unpunished feels like a massive error.
Or, more worryingly, was ACC Sutcliffe actually right in what she said? Are we now a society so scared of anything to do with gender equality that we’re scared to get truly involved and deal with it properly? Is the abused policewoman not being taken seriously because of how she chooses to empower herself and to make herself feel better in a patriarchal society?
There are many layers to the argument and the decision, a lot of which I probably haven’t touched here. However, strip away gender politics and what we have is someone in a position of power abusing a more junior colleague. That simply can not be shown to be acceptable.