By Fiona Grahame
Embracing the 21st Century is a struggle for some of Scotland’s parliamentarians. Nothing more exemplifies this than their reaction to Police Scotland.
As a child o’ independent mind at age 5 I got myself lost when instead of going home straight from school I went to a friend’s house to play. Cutting to the chase: when I realised I was lost I found myself a policeman directing the traffic on what was then a quieter Queensferry Road. When he noticed my greetin face was not going away the kindly bobby asked my address (which of course I knew) and took me home. Rushing past my frantic mother I locked myself in the toilet while he pled for leniency on my behalf.
Although I have been no angel ( n.b. I do not have a police record) the police have always had my confidence in keeping me and mine safe. It, therefore, filled me with first shock and then disgust to hear 3 political party leaders in the Scottish Parliament attack them and in so doing undermining the work they do to keep us all safe.
Police Scotland was formed on 1st April 2013. Before that we had 8 regional forces and not a great deal of accountability. Today we have:
“local senior officers for every council area with a statutory duty to work with councils to shape local services.”
“Establishing a single service aims to ensure more equal access to national and specialist services and expertise such as major investigation teams and firearms teams, whenever and wherever they are needed.“(Police and Fire Reform)
Key provisions in the legislation include:
- Formal opportunities for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the services
- New roles for councils to shape and scrutinise local delivery of police and fire and rescue services
- A designated local policing commander and local senior fire officer for each local authority area
- Clear responsibilities for the Chief Constable and, to ensure continued separation from Ministers, a new Scottish Police Authority with 11-15 members and a clear and strong remit to effectively hold the Chief Constable to account.
This level of public scrutiny and accountability never existed with the 8 regional divisions. And yet the leader of Scotland’s smallest group of MSPs ,Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats, desires to go back to those days of old.
Perhaps Willie Rennie, Richard Leonard (Labour) and Ruth Davidson (Conservatives) have been caught up in a Dixon of Dock Green timewarp where the local copper can solve every crime by asking a few street urchins playing footie outside the Star n’ Garter.
21st century policing in Scotland requires a force that can deal with everything from human trafficking to worn tyre tread. “Policing 2026: Serving a Changing Scotland ” is a strategy for the future which sets out the priorities for the force.
The 3 year implementation plan includes:
- investing £3.6m in expanding specialist cyber provision
- purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles to aid searches for missing people
- mobile devices enabling officers to access core systems and applications away from base
- more localism by developing a new contact and resolution model based on an assessment of risk and vulnerability
- working with partners
- a public consultation on wearing body cameras
- increasing automatic number plate recognition coverage, intelligence and capabilities
- investing in workforce wellbeing, modernising staff pay and reward, and the introduction of a new leadership strategy
This is modern policing at its best and Police Scotland is getting on with their day job Keeping People Safe.
Rather than take the word of a few politicians using our police force as a political football you can check for yourself how well our police are doing because they are now accountable in a way they never were before:Crime and Justice Statistics.
There is even a monthly briefing.
“Recorded crime is down by 38% since 2007-08 and at its lowest level since 1974. Between 2015-16 & 2016-17, the number of crimes recorded fell by 3%”
Cases of rape and sexual assault crimes rose most likely due to the widening of the definition of rape and the positive work being done with Police Scotland and partner agencies working together to help reporting by victims.
“There were 64 homicide victims recorded by the police in Scotland in 2016-17, a 44% decrease from 2007-08. Numbers have been at around the same level in each of the last five years.”
There has been an increase in reported Domestic Abuse cases. Police officers are receiving new training on recognising coercive control and psychological abuse so this may see these figures continue to rise.
Most people rate their community as a safe place to live and this year has seen an increase in the force with the number of full time officers at 17,250.
I weary of politicians with the title ‘leader’, sitting in comfortable safe offices, who take time each week to berate those who provide us with public services: to educate our children, to look after the sick and vulnerable and to keep us safe. For the sake of a few seconds of sound bite fame they undermine those (on much much less money than themselves) who day in day out are working in our communities building a safer, healthier more educated Scotland.
Faced with increasing levels of more sophisticated crime the police have to have an organisation which can do that job and at the same time provide the local reassurance that when a wee bairn cannot find her way home they will still be there to help her.
Police Scotland is a modern force.
A police service for 21st Century Scotland.