Police morale suffered in switch to single force

THE speed of transition to Scotland’s single police force had a negative impact on the morale of officers and staff, an independent report has found.

'Pace and nature' of change had affected morale in the force. Picture: Stuart Cobley

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said officers and civilian staff in Fife Constabulary felt the force’s local identity and affinity with communities had been undermined by the creation of the national force.

There were also concerns about the lack of information provided on shift changes for the Commonwealth Games, while it was felt that changes to terms and conditions made it difficult for employees to plan for the future.

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The country’s eight regional police forces were merged to form Police Scotland in 2013 in a bid to save £1.1 billion by 2026.

In a report published today, HMICS said Police Scotland was providing effective local policing to Fife, but the merger process had not been without its problems.

The independent body, which scrutinises both the police and the Scottish Police Authority, also found there had been a rise in reported crime and a slight fall in detection rates, although these remain above the national average.

It said the transition to a single service had been made swiftly without detracting from local policing. However, the “pace and nature” of change had affected morale, with more needing to be done to improve internal communication.

The report is the first to be published in a series which will inspect Scotland’s 14 local policing divisions.

It said the introduction of national approaches with the advent of Police Scotland had actually increased bureaucracy, and there were concerns about the volume of information being given to officers and staff.

But the creation of the national force had seen the Fife division benefit from increased access to specialist resources, the report said.

HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Derek Penman, said: “HMICS accepts that it is inevitable that change on this scale will have an impact on the culture and identity of staff, but this can be anticipated and managed effectively through meaningful engagement. We consider the implementation of effective change requires the support and understanding of those that are involved and affected by that change and effective two-way communication can assist in its design and implementation.

“We take the view that Police Scotland should review internal communication processes at an early opportunity.”

Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan, divisional commander for Fife, said the period of the inspection had coincided with a “noticeable increase” in domestic violence, but that a new “proactive” approach to this issue was reducing such offences.

He added: “I welcome the HMICS inspection, particularly at such an early stage in the transition to Police Scotland, as it provided an excellent opportunity for both external scrutiny of our developing procedures and a searching independent insight into whether we are addressing community concerns and meeting local needs.”