Monday 6th April, 2015

Searching questions for Police Scotland

Last Wednesday marked the second anniversary since the formation of Police Scotland. But this was not a day of celebration for its Chief Constable, Sir Stephen House.

Instead, a damning report landed on his desk regarding the force’s mishandling of stop and search.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland, which provides independent scrutiny of policing, launched its review of the practice, following reports that it was being inappropriately applied and that some figures were being manipulated.

The findings would not have made light reading for Sir Stephen. The inspection body stated that it did not have confidence in stop and search data held by the police. It found little evidence between the use of stop and search and reductions in crime. And police officers raised concerns that a target culture was encouraging negative behaviours. The list could go on.

This is just the latest in a long line of controversies that have dogged Police Scotland including counter closures such as that in Port Glasgow and Gourock, the arming of police officers and concerns about the lack of accountability.

While stop and search has its role to play, the message coming from officers is that it should be targeted at the “right people, in the right place, at the right time”.

Given that four thousand stop and searches were conducted in Inverclyde in August and September of last year, some will conclude that this isn’t happening.

Police officers should be allowed to focus on what they do best and the reason they joined the force, which is to protect the public, not to meet artificial targets.

It’s high time that Sir Stephen asked himself some searching questions, to learn from the mistakes of the last two years and to uphold the public’s faith in policing.