Chris Marshall: Legacy of Police Scotland chief

Sir Stephen House recently announced he would step down when his contract expires. Picture: TSPL
Sir Stephen House recently announced he would step down when his contract expires. Picture: TSPL
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FOLLOWING the First Minister’s recent backing for Police Scotland’s under-fire chief constable, rank and file officers used a meeting of the Scottish Police Federation last week to liken their boss to a beleaguered football manager.

Followers of the beautiful game will know that in recent years it has become customary that struggling coaches given the backing of the board are usually given the boot pretty soon thereafter.

During a debate involving the four party leaders, Nicola Sturgeon was asked that given her “dreaded vote of confidence”, was it now time “Team Police Scotland” began looking for a new manager.

While her endorsement wasn’t exactly ringing, the First Minister said she continued to have faith in Sir Stephen House.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, however, raised one of the biggest cheers of the day after suggesting Sir Stephen “change his ways” or go.

It’s hardly surprising that a group of unionised employees gathered at a luxury hotel to discuss their jobs would be critical of their boss.

The chief constable himself acknowledged that in an interview he later gave in which he said he would never expect to be loved by a SPF conference.

In the same interview he confirmed that he is likely to step down when his contract is up in late 2016.

Only then will we be able to accurately judge his legacy.

However, Sir Stephen has much to be proud of.

Under his leadership Strathclyde Police helped oversee a large fall in violent crime in the west of Scotland.

Nationally, recorded crime is at its lowest level for 40 years.

Sir Stephen should also be commended for how his officers have dealt with tragedies such as Clutha and the Glasgow bin lorry crash.

But despite this, one hopes his successor will be less dogmatic and less likely to have his or her hackles raised by political scrutiny.

The chief constable is a public servant. He should be fully accountable.

Sir Stephen says he is more accountable now than at any point during his police career. However, the experience of both stop and search and armed policing has shown that Police Scotland has a way to go in learning what full accountability actually is.

Sir Stephen should enjoy his retirement knowing he has presided over the creation of a national police force which has left policing stronger and more uniform across the country as a whole.

But his successor should focus on where the outgoing chief constable went wrong and begin mending Police Scotland’s damaged reputation.


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