Scottish police force: New national force faces legal threat before it even exists

Police will fight plans that may force them to retire early
Police will fight plans that may force them to retire early
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POLICE superintendents have warned they will take legal action against their new chief constable if long-serving officers are forced to retire.

They fear it is becoming increasingly likely that regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulation Act 1987 will be used to axe those with more than 30 years’ experience.

It has never been used in Scotland before, although both Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde have looked at it in recent years.

The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) believes the decision by police chiefs to continue promoting officers right up to the launch of the new single police force in April next year will create a financial burden further down the line when many inevitably leave on higher pensions.

Although the Scottish Government has banned permanent promotions to chief constable, deputy and assistant ranks, 180 officers were promoted to other posts between January and May. Asps believe that is making it more likely that the new police chief and national police authority will find they have no option but to invoke A19.

Chief Superintendent David O’Connor, president of Asps, said: “If they use A19, we will legally challenge them. We can’t challenge the principle as a whole, but we will challenge every single case. And that is not just superintendent ranks but constable, sergeant and inspector ranks as well.

“Here we are, just eight months away from the Police Service of Scotland, and promotions continue to be made and, in effect, problems are being stacked up for the future.”

Police forces have already had to make significant cuts due to the tightening budgets which have, in part, led to next year’s reform.

Mr O’Connor said: “It [regulation A19] has been looked at in Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde, but the point is that, in creating a single force out of eight, you no longer need eight chiefs, or eight deputies, and that will filter down through the ranks.”

Police sources said legal challenge would probably cite the officer’s wealth of experience and question whether the course of action would have been necessary had promotions not taken place in the final months of the eight forces.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) has not ruled out the use of A19, saying it would be a decision for the new chief constable and police authority.

However, Assistant Chief Constable Cliff Anderson, general secretary of Acpos, defended the need to make promotions between now and April.

“It is vitally important that forces maintain operational resilience and current high performance across all areas of policing,” he said. “When promotion opportunities arise, they are always considered carefully to ensure the right decisions are made in the interests of providing an effective service.

“Losing key police managers at a time of unprecedented change in the service would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

The Scottish Government warned chief constables to think carefully about the financial picture before promoting officers.