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Other views

7. We would welcome any additional views you have on our strategy and how it will affect you, or any other person.

We would welcome any views you have.
Policing 2026 Strategy I refer to the above. As you are aware the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has deliberated for some time over whether to submit to formal response to the public consultation. In light of the expressed desire of senior officers that we do so, the response is below. The SPF believes that at least as far as attempting to give some idea of what the future of policing might hold, the 2026 draft strategy (the strategy) is welcome. That being said we consider that the strategy raise many more questions than it answers, and leaves a lot unsaid on issues that we consider are of the greatest importance for the public acceptance of, and confidence in policing in Scotland. I will turn to the substantive questions further in this response but must firstly take some time to comment on the content of the strategy as published. The Strategy The introduction (page 5) makes clear that the “input and wellbeing [of our people] are critical to continued success.” Disappointingly beyond this altruistic statement there is little within the strategy itself to demonstrate that the actual people upon who the service depends to deliver policing, are actually considered at all. It surely cannot be lost on the service that the opinion and pulse surveys of 2015 and 2017 have been damning in terms of how officers consider the service treats and values them. The fact these issues do not merit any real consideration within the wider strategy is deeply disappointing, in many ways this reinforces to officers that their views, experiences, and considerations are of little relevance to the future of policing. There is a manifest difference between what a future workforce might look like and how the workforce it treated and regarded. Any strategy that looks at next ten years of policing without addressing these fundamental issues is doomed to fail. The SPF is concerned that the description of the events of yesteryear (page 8) compared to the events of today are akin to comparing apples and oranges. Meaningful comparison is nigh on impossible as the approach to the recording of crime and the police response to crime continually changes. This does not necessarily mean that demand is decreasing or that the police are doing more of the work of other agencies. For example more police fixed penalty notices and recorded warnings are issued. Where once the behaviour of an individual would have resulted in arrest, we now see an increased effort to divert individuals into health or addiction services. This is not a criticism but it is important that the service does not create a perception that certain activities erroneously fall to the police. This is of the utmost importance as “reductions in public space recorded crime” should not be read as indicative that public space police demands have themselves decreased. It is arguably in the “how” (from page 14 and further expanded from page 30) that the strategy becomes increasingly vague. The SPF appreciates a strategy is not the same as a detailed plan. That being said for a strategy to be a strategy and not merely an aspiration, and in order to be credible, the strategy has at least to give some form of indication as to how it intends to achieve what it says it will achieve. Aspirational statements are well and good but they risk becoming sticks with which the service can be beaten if the “how” is not laid out. Without the how, all of the following bulleted points are meaningless statements; • we will … respond appropriately to the needs of individuals and communities … • we will modernise our operating model to ensure we achieve maximum impact with our available resources Whilst these issues are to some extent expanded on from page 30, there continues to be no indication as to who determines what is appropriate or what the needs are. The strategy assumes that what it implies, is what the public want. Implied in the strategy is that the police will physically respond to fewer calls from the public and increasingly provide a telephony or virtual policing service. Whilst there is no reference in the strategy, we know the chief constable has indicated an elderly victim of crime is more vulnerable than a middle aged victim of crime (and by implication more deserving of a police or timeous police response). There is absolutely no empirical evidence to support this assertion. The psychological impact of being a victim of crime varies from individual to individual but regardless of this – every victim deserves not to be discriminated against when calling on the police for help. It is impossible to conclude that the terminology “we will modernise our operating model” and “we will be able to deploy our workforce more flexibly due to enhanced mobility …” (page 33) will mean anything other than greater even more frequent disruption to officers and their family lives. At this time the service is fully aware the IT capabilities available to the majority of officers are simply shocking. Additionally it is an open secret that there is likely to be little improvement to this for some considerable time to come. Against this reality, which bizarrely the strategy makes not a single reference to, it is difficult to reconcile that officers will be able to be “deployed more flexibly due to … better digital capability” or that “we will enhance public accessibility through improved use of technology.” The SPF has for as long as I can remember been asking chief constables what they mean by “operational roles” when talking about policing. Hitherto, successive chief constables have doggedly refused to answer that question. Given the explicit reference (Page 33) it is important to make clear what is meant in this regard in the strategy? The vague terminology of promoting community engagement and resilience (page 33) in its own right invites questions of “how” and “what does this mean?” Individual or personal resilience, which in its own right varies from issue to issue, does not translate into community resilience. There are assumptions (page 33) that police “insight, advice and guidance” will increase resilience but no real explanation as to why this would be the case. Of greatest significance however is the implicit suggestion that it will be the police who will determine if policing is a success. We consider that in light of the scale of change this strategy suggests that this could be regarded as the police service marking its own homework. • we will strengthening partnership working, identifying areas of shared improvement This is elaborated from page 34. The SPF believes it is important to lay out that the police use and personal data is subject to strict rules. We also question the assumption that other organisations will be willing to share back office functions not least as all organisations, will be subject to continued budgetary pressures for some time and the ability to grow or reduce the workforce are likely to be important considerations for them. • we will continue to … invest in the development and wellbeing of or workforce • we will change the mix of skills and experience • we will strengthen the diversity of our whole workforce This is expanded from page 36. The SPF is struck at just how little is written here but is astounded at the content of what is written. The strategy refers to “changing the workforce mix to address the evolving needs and complexities of diverse communities.” Other than cyber communities, an aging population, and an implied increase in non- English speaking communities, there is no real indication as to what these “evolving needs and complexities” are. In light of conversations within the force the SPF knows the change in workforce mix tends to concentrate on the need for “cyber-experts” to replace police officers. The SPF believes that the assumptions on recruiting those with the appropriate skills at a cost the service can afford to be misplaced. Given the wider societal shortage of a skilled computer literate and able workforce, the police service will be competing in a market where its offering is always likely to be at the lower end of financial reward. Even if it is able to attract individuals, we consider it is unlikely it will be able to retain them. Unless the service properly understands the existing skills and experience of its workforce it cannot genuinely state what we have needs changing. The skills and experiences of officers extend far beyond those they have acquired whilst carrying a warrant card. At this time the service has many officers and staff with the skills that could be utilised in roles the service needs, if it went to the trouble of identifying them. The SPF is a strong believer in “round pegs for round holes” and consider that there is much that could be done internally to develop capacity and resilience. Whilst there may well be some resistance to “roles for life” within the current workforce and indeed executive, the strategy implies the service would be willing to accommodate “roles for a short (working) life.” There is an inherent contradiction in this and to some extend belies a subliminal organisational resentment about using those with the skills they have been given in roles where they provide the best value for prolonged periods of time. Enhanced training for existing officers and staff who have an emotional and often financial commitment to policing (due to the police pensions for example) offer opportunities for career development and service resilience, that appear not to be under consideration. In order to “continue to … invest in the development and wellbeing of or workforce” the starting point must be of at least adequate extant provision in these areas. The SPF disputes that this is the case not least given the scathing survey findings, the erosion of meaningful welfare provision including the loss of all welfare officers, and the constant cheapening of training. In many ways the lack of commitment to training is demonstrated in the fact the strategy makes little reference to the subject and implies that buying skills is preferential to developing them. Against this background it is perhaps little wonder that the service offers a tacit nod to an inability to retain its workforce or being considered to not be an attractive career option – “new routes to enter, exit and re-enter.” The SPF considers the service needs to do more to establish policing as a career of choice and provide wholesale incentives to remain. Fair reward, career development and meaningful training opportunities lie at the heart of this. It is disappointing that the bulk of issues that impact on the sense of worth police officers have, have been imposed on them by the service itself - the service’s chickens have come home to roost. It is deeply ironic that the strategy refers to contribution based reward, which is typical of ideological policy formation without thought as to what it means in practice. Chief Constables used to argue this was essential and used to have direct control over at least 2% of the police pay bill to target these unspecified “contributions.” Despite this Chief Constables resented having to identify some who were more deserving of “reward” than others and recognised the hostility this created within the wider workforce. They ultimately pursued the ending of the practice over half a decade ago. • we will introduce technology to enable workforce efficiency This is arguably one of the greatest challenges and deserves to be underwritten by more than bland “we will” statements (page 40). Every single police officer knows that police IT is of stone age capability. The failure to deliver i6 and rhetoric over modular systems provide no motivation to officers to believe things will improve any time soon. Quite simply the complete lack of any reference to costs make this a frustratingly meaningless statement. Using data to inform evidence based decision making (page 41) - The SPF is of absolutely no doubt as to how important this area is. We are aware that legislation is not as adaptable as the police service wishes and that greater awareness of new investigatory opportunities desperately needed. Indeed it is for these reasons that we have secured the attendance of an international exert in this area to come to Scotland in August to share his skills. We consider this could provide a template for wider skills development and look forward to seeing how this develops. • we will scale and change our cyber capability (page 45) The SPF believes the realties and limitations of not only the threats but the genuine capabilities to address them needs to be made clear. We know crimes that occur through servers outside of the UK (and to some extent and at this time, the EU) are beyond the legislative competence of UK legislation. Even where international governments agree on the sharing of information, this is often reserved to the gravest and most serious of crimes. Additionally technological developments in both the commercial and criminal spheres mean privacy and encryption develops at a pace the police simply cannot match. • we will transform our corporate services (page 48) Whilst the SPF appreciates changes are needed, we consider that reference to corporate services as a stand-alone issue will reinforce a perception that the bulk of the workforce is considered irrelevant to the future. It is not unfair to ask why something akin to – we will transform how we treat our staff to ensure that fairness integrity and respect are more than just words on a page – does not feature in these bulleted points. Finances (Page 50) Despite dedicating two whole pages to the subject of finance (over a third of which repeats the historical and known positions) this section contains no meaningful content on how the scale of the financial challenges will either impact on day to day service delivery or, impact on the delivery of the strategy. It is telling that the pages of the strategy that are most reliant on financial investments (IT and Cyber) are those in which the least is written. If the service does not start from the honest position that it has inherited an IT infrastructure which is frankly antiquated and an estate which in many areas is decrepit; and lays out in simple terms what it believes needs to be spent to address these issues, the strategy is not worth the paper it is written on. The Consultation Questions Question 1 – the SPF believes the public is in no position to be able to answer this question to any meaningful degree. There is little doubt that finance (and a lack of finance in particular) is the SINGLE biggest challenge for policing, yet casual reading of the strategy would not lead the reader to the same conclusion. Accordingly we consider the strategy invites the reader to agree that altruistic statements amount to identification of the main risks. Question 2 – The SPF believes this question is loaded. The consultation lays out the views of the SPA and PSoS that these approaches are essential to deliver enhanced policing. The average member of the public is unlikely to disagree with the chief constable when such authoritative positions are presented. It would have been interesting to see what the public response to an open question would have been. Question 3 – As identified in our comments above, as much of what is not said in the strategy is arguably more relevant that what has been. For example – if we were to overtly tell the public that the intention is to not send police resources to some crimes and some victims of crime, it is inevitable this would deliver a different response to this question than the background presented. Accordingly we consider the selective preamble invites the reader to agree with the question. Question 4 – We have no objection to this question but consider the police should NOT be the gatekeepers of how public confidence is measured. Question 5 – The SPF considers the public is not in a positon to be able to answer this question to any meaningful degree. Our comments above refer. Question 6 – The SPF considers that insofar as much remains unsaid, it is impossible to fairly ask the public if they consider the strategy is clear and understandable. Understanding can only come with genuine awareness of the issues. Given there is little reference to finance (and what there is, is tucked away to the back of the document) it is difficult to argue that the public is armed with the information to form a proper understanding. Conclusion The SPF is more than aware the strategy is a draft for consultation. That being said we consider that given the financial elephant in the room, this should have featured more prominently in the information conveyed to the public. The service will do itself no credit by sugar coating the realities and risks being in the over promise and under deliver position. Ultimately however the successful implementation (or otherwise) of the strategy will depend on the engagement of the staff. Given the numerous challenges already raised by staff, the lack of inclusion of any significant narrative on how the strategy will lead to improvements for them is disappointing. In fact, casual reading of the strategy suggests there is little contained therein that will improve their lot in the short to medium term. I should add that notwithstanding the above comments, the SPF is more than aware of the work that has gone into this document. We are obliged for the generosity of which team members have engaged with us and we very much look forward to working with you in seeking to deliver a successful police service for 2026 and beyond.

About you

8. What is your name?

Calum Steele

10. Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Please select one item
I am answering as an individual
Ticked I am answering on behalf of an organisation
Organisation Name
Scottish Police Federation