Accountability key to improving policing

Monday 16th November 2015


Police Scotland has been plagued by problems ever since it was established over two and a half years ago. These have not been ‘teething’ problems as some would have you believe. We are talking about real and systematic failures that have dragged the reputation of the police force through the mud and forced the former Chief Constable out the door.

Failures include the stripping away of local accountability, major policy decisions being made without consultation and police officers being stretched to the limit due to severe cuts in civilian staff. We have also observed a target culture prevailing in the organisation with local police officers last year conducting four thousand stop and searches in the space of two months. To make matters worse, last week Scotland’s independent police watchdog highlighted serious weaknesses in Police Scotland’s call handling system.

In response to growing concerns about the operation of Police Scotland, Labour’s Shadow Justice Spokesman Graeme Pearson launched a review. Going around the country he listened to what ordinary officers, staff and members of the public had to say. They painted a picture of a police force which is centralised, politicised and autocratic.

Last week he published the findings of his review and made a series of strong recommendations about how to improve policing in Scotland with a particular focus on measures to ensure Police Scotland is held properly to account. He also proposed there should be a resource audit conducted across the country to identify accurately the staff and allocation needed for each community. The Scottish Government should act now and implement these proposals in full so we can return to the sort of community policing that was once the envy of the world.