Senior police officer reduced women to “nothing more than prostitutes” in speech
A SENIOR Scots police officer has been accused of reducing women to “nothing more than prostitutes” in an after-dinner speech.
It has been alleged Superintendant Niven Rennie, of Strathclyde Police, made an “unending string” of offensive jokes at the annual conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) held last month.
Some guest were left “visibly upset” during the colourful speech, which included gags about female breasts, male sexual prowess and mental illness.
Rennie’s material at the Asps conference, a key date in the police diary, prompted Lothian and Borders deputy chief constable, Steve Allen, to make an official complaint to Asps president, David O’Connor.
Steve Allen, who was a guest at the event, held last month at the four-star Peebles Hydro hotel in the Scottish Borders, said Mr Rennie’s speech had “embarrassed and compromised” his position in the force.
Mr Allen, a former Metropolitan police commander who was in charge of its diversity unit, was enraged after Rennie, chairman of the Strathclyde branch of Asps, fired off a string of “out-of-date” jokes that reduced women to “nothing more than prostitutes” and included jokes that “dwelled on penis size” and sexual orientation.
In a letter to the Asps president, Allen said: “Surely its decades since any professional person or organisation through these were appropriate for such occasions?
“I believe that we are trying to create a service that the most talented people want to join. We continually talk about a service that serves all sections of our community without fear or favour. All this rhetoric means nothing if we then go on to collude with out-dated white, male, heterosexual attitudes.
“In addition to the exclusionary effect of such attitudes, it is likely, in my view, that they contravene our statutory duties under the Equalities Act.
Allen said he had chosen not to walk about during Rennie’s speech as he did not want to embarrass the conference sponsors.
Rennie declined to comment on the row, but O’Connor said most dinner guests had found the senior officer’s jokes funny.
He added: “I can confirm a concern has been raised and I have received a letter. The matter will be considered next week.”
Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar was present at the dinner he said Rennie’s material was “standard fare” for after dinner speeches, although some guests had been visibly upset.
He said: “It may not be the type of humour I am used to but I have heard worse among lawyers. It was said among adults and no offence was taken by myself or my wife.”
In 2003 American researchers concluded after-dinner speeches “aren’t as funny as they used to be” due to the fear of intolerant or offensive humour.
In 2006, John Vine, the former chief constable of Tayside police, gave a speech at a lawyers’ dinner which included a joke about Al-Qaeda fathers discussing their sons who had been suicide bombers. He said one of the fathers remarked: “Kids blow up so quickly these days.”
In 2007, Donald Findlay QC, one of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers faced disciplinary action after members of the public complained about a speech he made to Rangers fans at a social club in Northern Ireland. Findlay, a former Rangers v i c e -chairman, was reported to have said: “It’s very smokey in here tonight. Has another f****** Pope died?” He then allegedly told a joke about a nun and a turnip.
Allen could not be contacted for comment.
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