Edinburgh sauna raids show police ‘culture clash’

THE creation of Scotland’s single police force caused a “culture clash” which left officers feeling “disenfranchised”, according to one of the country’s most senior policemen.

DCC Steve Allen believes police officers felt disenfranchised. Picture: Neil Hanna

Steve Allen, the former deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, will tell an audience in Edinburgh today that raids on the city’s saunas were the most obvious early sign of difficulties.

Deputy Chief Constable Allen, who is now in charge of policing operations for the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, is expected to say that the formation of Police Scotland “brought together fundamentally different leadership styles that created misunderstandings”.

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Scotland’s eight forces were merged to form Police Scotland on 1 April 2013 with the hope of making more than £1 billion of savings by 2026.

But under the leadership of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, it has been accused of “Strathclydisation” by forcing the tactics of what was once the country’s largest force on other parts of the country.

Last year, officers carried out a series of raids on Edinburgh’s saunas, which had previously been tolerated as part of the 
police’s approach to the sex trade in the capital.

The raids saw licences suspended from a number of city saunas by councillors at the request of police, although some were later allowed to remain open after lodging appeals.

DCC Allen is appearing at a leadership event in Edinburgh today, where he is expected to say that many officers found the initial transition difficult.

“People felt disenfranchised and not part of the new organisation,” he will say. “They felt that some of their basic principles and beliefs about policing were being challenged. Others believed that they were not performing in a way that was expected of them and it spilled out into a wider political arena.

“The sauna raids in Edinburgh challenged a way of policing that had existed for a decade or more in terms of style and methods. The new policy pursued by Police Scotland challenged the approach that police had taken there which was about tolerance and harm minimisation.

“It continues to be a lively debate within the City of Edinburgh Council. It was an illustration very early on that you can’t assume that because you’re in the police that the approach is going to be the same across the country.”

DCC Allen, who previously held a senior role in the Metropolitan Police, will tell his audience that despite initial difficulties, the merger of the eight regional forces has gone relatively smoothly. However, he admits many officers had to find new ways of operating after their forces built up “distinctive relationships and approaches”.

Mr Allen will set out his model of leadership, telling audience members that it is based on values, inclusiveness and “a very strong adherence to the notion that difference is strength”.

“One of my pet hates is a cult of personality and a management performance that has no understanding of the role that culture plays in an organisation,” he will say.

DCC Allen will be taking part in The Leadership Conversation, a series of events organised by Edinburgh College.