Stretched police ask public to shape priorities

The public are being asked for their views as Scotland's cash-strapped police force seeks to re-shape its priorities for the years ahead.
Picture: TSPLPicture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

The Scottish Government said the consultation, which was launched today, was to help understand and reflect the needs of local communities in the planning and delivery of policing.

Police Scotland, which must make savings totalling £1.1 billion by 2026, faces tough choices amid evolving threats to the public.

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Last week Chief Constable Phil Gormley said his force may have to pay less attention to “low-level acquisitive crime” such as car theft and shoplifting due to the huge growth in online child abuse.

He has also warned about the growth in other forms of cybercrime, saying online scamming is taking place on an “industrial scale”.

Launching the public consultation today, justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “I am confident that we are on the right track. Recorded crime is at a 41-year low, violent crime is down by more than half since 2006/07 and homicides are at their lowest since records began.

“However, it is important that we build on this progress, ensuring that every individual across Scotland experiences the benefits that come with having an effective police service.

“We need a service which carries the shared values of all of our public sector, which works at an international level to combat the threats of modern times, that brings national consistency, coordination and specialist resource and holds local policing at its heart. It must be focused on priorities which are relevant to, and serve the interests of, local people.”

Figures published by Police Scotland earlier this week show overall recorded crime has fallen by 3.2 per cent, but violent crime is up by more than 5 per cent and sexual offences more than 6 per cent.

Views are being sought on six new national policing priorities: localism; prevention; response; collaborative working; accountability and adaptability.

Mr Gormley said: “Police Scotland operates with the consent and support of the communities we serve. I welcome the public consultation on strategic policing priorities as they will enable our officers to deliver localised, community-focused services to the people of Scotland.

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“Understanding as much as we can about what communities need is a crucial factor in shaping a sustainable future for policing.

“By participating in this consultation process, members of the public are able to guide Police Scotland to the issues affecting their communities, enabling us to create a targeted approach to local issues.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the consultation offered Police Scotland a chance to “draw a line” under past controversies.

He said: “Stop and search, armed police on routine duties and the tragic crash on the M9 all played their role in making it more difficult for police officers to operate in the communities they serve.

“We need to return to the principle of policing by consent and restore the link between officers and communities that was undermined by the creation of Police Scotland.

“Scottish Government ministers need to accept that their centralisation of policing caused real problems for rank and file officers and civilian staff.”