News Writer Gracie Rogers reports on Officer Rebecca Kalam ‘vindicated’ after sex discrimination tribunal win
Trigger warnings for this article include: sexual discrimination
A former firearms officer has been awarded £30,000 after an employment tribunal, wherein she successfully sued the West Midlands Police for harassment, sex discrimination and victimisation.
Rebecca Kalam has also filed a claim for future loss of earnings and pensions, set to be decided in January. Mrs Kalam worked at the force from September 2008 to July 2023, when she was forced to medically retire.
Mrs Kalam claimed the police did not provide her with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including ballistic body armour to fit her, meaning she was forced to use ill-fitting male armour which made her feel unsafe. The tribunal judgement also reveals that she was not provided with a handgun with an ‘easier trigger pull like the other male officers were’.
In March 2012, she was required to act as a ‘stooge’ in a mock training exercise, wherein she was ‘stripped down to her underwear’ and male officers cut off her clothes so that first aid could be given. The scenario was based on a bullet hole on Mrs Kalam’s left breast, which officers would then have to treat, leading her to feel ‘extremely uncomfortable’.
Other incidents involved a male trainer pushing Mrs Kalam down with his foot while she was doing press-ups, commenting that just because she had breasts, this did not mean she was unable to do press-ups. Mrs Kalam also reported having to pose for a photo shoot while pregnant and being made the ‘poster girl’ for the Firearms Operations Unit, wherein she was told she could not pass the training course if she did not comply.
Images of male genitalia were reportedly drawn by male officers on notice boards around the station, and explicit language was used relating to female genitalia.
She also told the tribunal and Channel 4 of a series of discriminatory messages, misogynistic, racist and homophobic in their contents, which were sent between officers, whom she referred to as ‘predators’.
Mrs Kalam’s testimony exposed a culture of misogynistic behaviour within the West Midlands Police Force, and former superintendent Karen Geddes remarked that some of the tribunal’s findings were unsurprising. She said to the BBC: ‘I feel sorry for Rebecca and the experience she had, I had the privilege of knowing her, and knew how much she enjoyed her role.’
Deputy Chief Constable Scott Green told the BBC that the firearms unit had made ‘significant progress’ over the past two years, ensuring female officers were issued with the correct equipment and uniforms. He went on to say: ‘There is no place for misogynistic, discriminatory or disrespectful behaviour in policing and we are working hard to set and reinforce the highest professional standards.’
In a statement made to the BBC, Mrs Kalam said that she felt ‘vindicated’ by the result of the trial’, but was ‘saddened’ that the bullying she had encountered had not remained an ‘isolated experience’. She noted that ‘there remains no clear cultural change or protection’ for female officers.
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