Promise to boost police numbers by 1,000 is naive, say force chiefs

ONE of Scotland's biggest police forces has called the Scottish Government's pledge to provide 1,000 extra officers as "naive", and warned it may lead to compulsory redundancies for civilian support staff.

Grampian Joint Police Board believes the pledge will mean trained officers are forced to carry out backroom functions, while earning a higher salary.

The key SNP commitment also came under increasing pressure in the Scottish Parliament, where Unison called it a "cosmetic political exercise".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked if it would be able to maintain frontline officer numbers in 2011-12, Grampian Joint Police Board told a Scottish Parliament consultation: "This is a naive question and given the budget cuts, it is unrealistic to assume we could remain at current police numbers.

"Whilst the aim will always be to try and maintain frontline officers, the overall number will have to reduce."

It added: "We are doing our best to protect the front line by reducing non-essential spend. A move to compulsory redundancies of police staff could be necessary in the longer term."

Martin Greig, convener of the Grampian Joint Police Board, said: "Much of the support work done by police is carried out by support staff. That's a sensible division of labour.

"It's counterproductive and a retrograde step to put highly trained police officers into roles that have been civilianised."

Both the Scottish Government and Acpos have committed to maintaining officer numbers, which have risen by more than 1,000 in Scotland since the SNP came to power. However, Unison, the public-sector union, has criticised the Scottish Government for committing to maintain the extra 1,000 officers.

Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: "If police numbers are to be maintained, given the numbers and the proportions, it means all those cuts essentially will fall on civilian staff.

"Our view is that is a short-sighted view of the modern police force, which is made up of not just officers, but civilian support staff who perform a range of cost-effective and specialist roles. Many police forces have reported they will have to backfill these civilian posts with police officers. This means political targets may well be met but officers will not be on the streets."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bill Skelly, HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, said he had been assured by chief constables they would be able to meet the police officer numbers, however, he shared concerns over how these officers would be deployed.

Mr Skelly added: "We have to look at how officers are used, how the services they provide are delivered as well as the numbers available to do so."

Richard Baker, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said: "Police support staff need to be there to ensure police officers spend the maximum amount of time on the beat, not behind a desk.Fewer support staff means fewer officers on the front line fighting crime."

Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, added: "We need to know what impact budget cuts and civilian staff redundancies will have on the 1,000 police pledge and the ability to deploy police officers in our communities."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We remain committed to frontline policing services and maintaining our pledge to put an extra 1,000 officers on Scotland's streets.

"Despite the overall cut in Scotland's budget, police authorities will face a reduction in budget of just 2.6 per cent, ensuring they can maintain officer numbers next year."