Reforms to policing set to shift services to specialist staff
POLICE FORCE LEADERS have said that new strategy plans will move the service away from its increased staff number towards a more ‘specialist’ approach.
The comments coincide with the publication of ‘Policing 2026’ in which the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland have set out their decade-long vision for policing.
Phil Gormley, the chief constable, and Andrew Flanagan, the Scottish Police Authority chair, have said that the strategy includes expectations of a drop in overall staff numbers – while developing more specialist services.
Gormley said, on its launch: “You’ve only got to look at the way the world is changing about the complex needs of vulnerable people, around drug and alcohol abuse, mental health, cyber, crime analytics. Those are skills that we need and are unlikely to be drawn simply from police officers.”
The SNP, which has maintain the 1,000 officer pledge up till now, did not repeat the promise in its 2016 manifesto.
Flanagan added: “We are anticipating a small reduction in police officer numbers through to 2020. It will be around 400, but that will come towards the end of the period, rather than early on.
“We expect police officer numbers to remain at their current level through the coming year and only gradually reduce thereafter.”
The comments follow reports, prior to the 2016 election, that police leaders wanted the Scottish National Party to move away from its pledge to maintain an extra 1,000 police officers on 2007 figures – so that operational spending could have greater flexibility.
The SNP, which has maintained the 1,000 officer pledge up till now, did not repeat the promise in its 2016 manifesto.
“We expect police officer numbers to remain at their current level through the coming year and only gradually reduce thereafter.” Andrew Flanagan, Scottish Police Authority
Scottish Government Justice Secretary Michael Matheson welcomed the report: “While our Programme for Government is clear about the need to consider the right mix of skills and not just overall numbers, the public will always be interested in the number of police officers on the beat.
“We will pay particular attention to these issues before approval of the final strategy. In all circumstances, I would expect to see the number of police officers remaining significantly above the number we inherited in 2007. Indeed, our enhanced funding gives police the platform to invest in the wider workforce, technology and other resources to keep communities safe.”
Opposition parties raised concerns over current policing policy. Scottish Labour’s Business Manager James Kelly MSP said: “We also need to ensure there is a balanced workforce. In the last few years we have seen thousands of vital support staff cut as Police Scotland tries to meet the SNP’s underfunded election promise of a thousand extra officers.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP added: “This strategy represents an opportunity for the SNP Government to admit where they went wrong with centralisation and, after years of mismanagement, help get the police service back on even footing.”
Picture courtesy of Ninian Reid
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