The fine blue line
WRITING in this newspaper today, Paddy Tomkins, the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, raises some very interesting points about recent offers to pay for the services of additional police officers.
This week Lothian Buses revealed it had proposed paying for officers to patrol its buses after a spate of attacks on drivers and passengers. The South Edinburgh Partnership also wants to pay for extra officers on the beat in a bid to curb youth crime.
It is easy to see that such offers of additional funding from private organisations to pay for more police officers would be attractive.
As Mr Tomkins correctly points out, policing in the region - and particularly in Edinburgh itself - is under-resourced. The current levels of funding take no account of the city’s status as a European capital, the seat of the Scottish Parliament and a major tourist destination with an increasing range of high-profile public events.
While these particular offers have not been accepted, there can be no doubt that Mr Tomkins is minded towards greater partnership working and is looking into the development of a formal policy on payment for additional officers.
The Chief Constable is right to argue that any such arrangement would need to be "considered carefully and discussed fully." He cautions that the operational independence of the police cannot be compromised and insists that the public must continue to have faith that the police act "without fear or favour".
However, if Lothian and Borders Police does decide to allow outside organisations to pay for extra police officers it would be impossible to achieve these aims.
Even if no conditions were attached as to how these officers should be deployed, a nagging suspicion would remain. Why are people paying for this and what do they expect in return?
Even if the council and the police board and Mr Tomkins satisfy themselves that an arrangement does not compromise the force’s integrity, how will they persuade the public - many of whom are already concerned at a lack of police presence in their community - that the policing of the city is being exercised without fear or favour?
Clearly such a formal policy would be fraught with difficulties. There is a big difference between a private company sponsoring a few police cars and one paying for extra officers.
The public will not believe that the police are exercising the law impartially if people can pay for their extra protection.
A special case
THIS week the Scottish Executive announced 8 million in additional funding to help education authorities make schools and nurseries accessible to pupils with special needs. The money is to be spent on adapting buildings as well as access to the curriculum.
Yet some pupils have such special needs that they can never be integrated to mainstream schools. That is why Capability Scotland set up Westerlea school in Edinburgh more than 50 years ago to cater for children who are severely disabled.
It is now under threat of closure because the charity can no longer afford the running costs, and a bid to build a replacement in conjunction with the city council has fallen through.
Parents of Westerlea pupils have mounted a campaign to save the school, and have collected 1000 signatures of support. Yet they are to be denied access to vital talks to discuss its future.
Only a small part of the Executive’s money to upgrade mainstream schools would save Westerlea.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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