The number of police officers being taken off front-line duties to cover backroom tasks is “not sustainable”, it has been warned.
In his annual report, HM Inspector of Constabulary, Derek Penman, said the long-standing SNP commitment to 1,000 extra officers would only remain effective if those officers were allowed to carry out operational policing roles.
Mr Penman also said the while recorded crime is at a 41-year low, it is likely to rise due to a “significant” increase in online offences.
He said: “While the current commitment to maintaining an additional 1,000 officers is welcomed and has strengthened policing across Scotland, it can only remain effective and efficient whilst these officers continue to perform operational policing roles.
“In the absence of a long-term vision of policing, a wider workforce strategy and a clear financial strategy, there is a real risk that financial savings will continue to focus primarily on reducing police staff.
“Through our various inspections, I have observed the reduction in skilled police staff, increases in overtime and use of police officers in corporate functions and other settings, including projects. This is not sustainable in the medium to longer term.”
The Scottish Government said: “Police Scotland does not have a policy of using police officers to fill staff posts.
“The Scottish Government has protected police officer numbers in Scotland with over 1,000 extra delivered since 2007 and this commitment will remain.”