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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.
Introduction Policing 2026 should be seen as the start of an open and honest debate about the future of policing in Scotland. This includes how we deal with the changing nature of crime, what lessons can be learnt from the early years of Police Scotland, and how we ensure we have the leadership needed to deal with the financial and operational challenges facing the force. This submission and the wider consultation must act as starting point for setting out a new framework for policing in Scotland. Government, Parliament, the SPA, Police Scotland and all relevant authorities and organisations must work together to ensure Scotland has a police service that can play a full and key role in changing our society to ensure safer more peaceful communities. We all appreciate the work undertaken by dedicated officers and staff within Police Scotland, often putting themselves at risk to ensure our safety. We must ensure that they have the support and resources to continue their job, keep our communities safe and be able to respond when the public needs it. Police Scotland Oversight Many of the controversies surrounding Police Scotland’s formative years may have been avoided and more competently dealt with if there was better oversight to underpin and deliver on the priorities of the police. Whilst this oversight should rest with the Scottish Police Authority, we are clear that the SPA must be more robust in ensuring higher levels of public accountability both for police budgets but also the activities of the police. One way of ensuring this would be introducing greater local and Parliamentary scrutiny of the SPA, ensuring greater accountability and scrutiny at both a local and national level. As has become clear during recent appearances by the SPA in front of the Public Audit Committee at the Scottish Parliament, there are questions over how the authority is run, how board members are treated, how meetings are structured and how open and transparent the whole process is. One such answer is to look at an overhaul of how the SPA is run and its own accountability, ensuring proper scrutiny of policing in Scotland and confidence in the leadership of the Scottish Police Authority. For some time, the authority has been allowed to go ahead with closed door meetings, there have been high profile resignations of board members, accusations of Government interference over agenda items and important letters hidden from both the public and other SPA members. This has stemmed from a weak SPA leadership and the Scottish Government failing to provide the proper leadership needed. We therefore must move to greater Parliamentary oversight, allowing Parliament to approve the appointment of the SPA board, including the chair, answerable to a standalone Policing committee. Only then can we be confident in having an SPA that can ensure high levels of public accountability when it comes to scrutiny of police activities and budgets. We must also ensure greater local accountability. This can be achieved by convenors of local communities being given the right of audience at SPA board meetings, regarding issues of interest at a local level. Such members of local committees should be given training and guidance to ensure that they are able to hold Police Scotland, including divisional commanders, to account according to the needs of local communities. Financial Pressures Following the publication of Audit Scotland’s third report into the financial pressures facing policing in Scotland we know that there is an expected funding shortfall running into the hundreds of millions of pounds by 2021. Policing 2026 is one attempt to try and address this. The financial pressures facing Police Scotland have been growing for some time and there are major concerns that the SPA has failed to get these pressures under control. Audit Scotland have claimed that the SPA and Police Scotland suffers from “weak financial leadership and management”. As a result, we have been faced with many of the controversies named throughout this submission and we have had a former SNP Cabinet Minister claim that Police Scotland is “an organisation in crisis”. Therefore, the SPA, Chief Constable for Police Scotland and the Scottish Government must be fully upfront on their plans to get the finances of our police under control. They must lay out in full detail how they plan to make any reductions, and how this will be achieved without impact on officers’ and staffs’ ability to keep our communities safe. They must also detail how the budget will be used to invest in future policing, ensuring that our officers and staff have the latest working technology, resources and equipment. We have seen from the i6 project that lessons must be learned going forward to ensure that money is invested wisely. As a result of the failed project an estimated £200 million in efficiency savings over the next 19 years will not be realised and some of the potential benefits of a single police force cannot now be fully realised. Whilst good practice was initially followed by Police Scotland, now that potential savings will not materialise, Policing 2026 will have to make decisions on cuts that may otherwise have been avoided. Meanwhile Police Scotland still has an IT system that is in need of upgrading. Therefore, as accurate information and intelligence is vital to policing we must have a review into the IT infrastructure and strategy across Police Scotland. Workforce Following the 2007 election and the formation of Police Scotland the number of police officers have been set following a Government commitment to 1,000 extra officers. With in-year fluctuations the number of officers employed by Police Scotland has stayed above 17,000. Meanwhile we have seen thousands of vital support staff cut and as a result we have had officers backfilling roles, rather than being in our communities keeping them safe. We must look to rebalance the workforce in Police Scotland, ensuring that we have the number of staff and officers needed to deal with the changing nature of crime and the needs of the public. This number must be set and justified by the Chief Constable, with the agreement of the SPA. Only then will we be ensured a properly balanced force that meets the requirements of the public. This also allows Police Scotland greater opportunity for resourcing the needs of local communities, whether in the central belt, highlands or islands or the border regions. This would include regular resource audits which would accurately identify the staff and resource allocation for each local community. This could be at a local authority or police divisional level. Public Confidence The Policing 2026 strategy must explicitly work to secure and maintain the trust of those who it aims to protect. There must be a clear and conscious effort to build and maintain links and good relationships with local communities and improve the levels of public satisfaction and confidence with Police Scotland and the SPA. Many of the issues raised elsewhere in this submission will help to achieve this but it is imperative the Police Scotland learn from its previous years and redouble efforts to rectify past mistakes. This includes how the force records and responds to emergency and non-emergency calls, that the correct practices and reviews are in place to ensure safety is maintained for both officers and suspects in the process of making an arrest and that all procedures are strictly followed in the immediate aftermath of any death in police custody. There should therefore be a clear complaint structure within the police, with the Police Investigation and Review Commissioner given the sole responsibility for the conduct of investigations alleging misconduct and criminality affecting the service. All cases should be referred to PIRC who can refer back to Police Scotland what they assess as low level complaints. Whilst work has already been undertaken, Police Scotland must still increase its efforts to ensure that victims of certain crimes, historically under-reported, are encouraged and as comfortable as possible to come forward and report their crimes and that those guilty of committing these crimes are identified and pursued. This includes rape, hate crimes, child abuse, sexual abuse and domestic abuse. Police Scotland must also improve the practices and training in place to ensure that all staff, regardless of position, seniority, or speciality, are able to appropriately deal with victims or suspects who suffer from mental ill health, or have been subject to crimes such as rape or abuse. There must also be a viable plan to tackle racial and discrimination abuse and attack, noting that communities exist outwith traditional geographical areas, identify themselves through shared values, characteristics or circumstances. There must also be a clear commitment to supporting our ethnic and refugee communities, giving them the confidence that Police Scotland understands their needs. Challenges of the future We believe that Police Scotland must ensure that it is able to combat the challenges that the force may face both now and in the future through strong leadership. In the past three years we have seen rising reports of cyber-crime and security, along with a rise in terrorist attacks and activity throughout Europe. Police Scotland must be equipped to deal with any new or developing threat, including in counter terrorism. Through intelligence gathering, co-operation with outside organisations within Scotland and beyond and contingency planning, Scotland and its emergency services must be fully prepared for any potential attack and its aftermath on our soil. Police Scotland must be able to respond effectively to the challenges of social media. Whilst online can be a place of enjoyment and knowledge, bringing friends and family together and creating new communities of interest across the world, it also has dark corners where misogyny, racism and hatred live and it is right that action is taken by anyone in Scotland found spreading such hate. We need to see greater accountability between these sites and Police Scotland to ensure that appropriate action is taken. Redacted text MSP

About you

8. What is your name?

Name
Claire Baker MSP

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