THE financial crisis facing Police Scotland is so severe that officers are being sent to charity shops to buy equipment, it has been claimed.
According to the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), the “brutal reality” of the pressures on the force also means that dog handlers following trails are instructed to stop their search at the end of their shift so they don’t have to be paid overtime.
Instead of the handlers pursing their search to its conclusion, they are replaced by other officers who take over.
“General and criminal inquiries are passed from officer to officer, grossly diminishing the care for victims and increasing the likelihood of mistakes being made, evidence being lost and greater costs and abstractions should the issue subsequently progress to court,” said Calum Steele, General Secretary of the SPF.
Mr Steele described the “dire financial straits” facing the force in an article titled “Budget Cuts” posted on the SPF website.
In his article, Mr Steele described how officers were sent to charity shops to buy car sun blinds to protect a child from “needless intrusion” when the youngster needed to be given a lift in a police vehicle.
“Any one of us who has children know these can readily be brought for a couple of pounds but the officers were sent to scour charity shops to see if they could source them cheaper,” Mr Steele wrote.
Last night Police Scotland acknowledged the finanical challenges it faces, but said officers did not routinely buy items from charity shops.
Last year a report by the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland warned that Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, the body which monitors the force, face a “critical” £85 million funding gap by 2018/19.
Mr Steele claimed senior officers, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government were “happily kidding on” that everything “in the garden is rosy” when the force faces cuts.
“Cash is king and woe betide anyone who isn’t playing their part in making cuts. Theorising on paper that the service will be improved by cutting is a fool’s errand and the public is being misled over the policing realities of today...Imagine therefore a police service that is being strangled of the very capability to do what the public expects and what police officers know needs done and you are now imagining the PSOS (Police Service of Scotland) today, here and now.”
Mr Steele said the police handled 10,000 calls a day and only a couple of weeks ago had to deal with 10 murders in a fortnight. He added it was “poppycock” to suggest that pressures on the police were the same as other public services.
He went on to say that the public’s policing expectations were being treated as an “inconvenience” to a budget balancing exercise.
“The public deserve better than a police service scrambling about in charity shops and treating victims of crime like unwanted wedding presents to be passed on and on,” Mr Steele said.
Conservative Shadow justice Secretary Douglas Ross said: “These are deeply worrying claims by a senior police federation figure and the Scottish Government should now examine them very seriously. I am certain that this is something the parliament’s justice committee will want to examine. “Our officers must feel valued for the work they do and have the freedom and equipment to ensure they can investigate crimes effectively. These comments suggest that is not the case and, if accurate, will be having a huge impact on officer morale.”
Last night a Scottish Government spokesperson spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to protecting the police revenue budget in real terms for the entirety of this Parliament, delivering an additional £100 million of investment over the next five years, in addition to £55 million of reform funding in 2016-17. Clearly, it is for SPA and Police Scotland to determine the best possible use of the budget according to national and local priorities.
“The Scottish Police Authority remains the only police authority in the UK unable to recover VAT which is liable to an annual cost of around £25 million. HM Treasury introduced a new section into the VAT Act to ensure central government-funded academy schools in England could recover VAT. We will continue to press the UK Government to bring the VAT status of Scottish Police and Fire services into line with all other British and Northern Irish forces.”
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: “Police Scotland acknowledges the current financial challenges and is working closely with the Scottish Police Authority and Scottish Government to develop sustainable solutions.Whatever these financial challenges, Police Scotland is committed to delivering effective and efficient local policing services at the heart of every community, supported by national specialist resources when required. This is a key benefit of having a national police force.
“Dog handlers do not automatically stop searching if they are going to occur overtime, they ask for authorisation to stay beyond their tour of duty if the search cannot be completed within rostered hours.
“Officers do not routinely or regularly purchase items from charity shops to support operational requirements. On this occasion an officer bought a sun shade - something we do not carry in stock - to protect the identity of a vulnerable witness, a highly commendable action by our officers.
“The Scottish Police Federation rightly recognise there are budget challenges however, public confidence in policing remains strong and we look forward to working with everyone who has an interest in improving the service we provide to our local communities.”
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