Sunday 2 January 2011


The headlines today concern the policing of Scotland.  It's reported that a Ministerial Statement will be issued by the Scottish Government on 12 January to the effect that the government will be indicating in their manifesto the intent to move to a single force in the future.

Is this good or bad news for Scotland?  Labour already support a single police force and should the SNP follow then that makes a majority for the idea.  Back in October, at the SNP conference, Alex Salmond indicated a preference for three or four forces.  What has brought about this change of mind?

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland is against the idea.  No surprises there then.  Would the amalgamation of our current forces effect the demise of ACPOS?  If that was the case then it's certainly a plus.

The main concern about a single force has been coming from the Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary areas and that's understandable. Strathclyde is by far the biggest of the present eight forces in Scotland. Aberdeenshire is far removed from the Glasgow area and not only in distance. Both areas have differing social problems as well as a few in common and Grampian are worried that they are consumed by the much larger Strathclyde methods.

I certainly think that eight police forces is excessive, particularly now that IT has finally come of age within this public service.  It has taken years for IT to work effectively but I'm reliably informed it does now save many man hours.

Whether we could manage with a single force or would be better provided by three or four, I haven't yet decided. What I'd like to know is the reason(s) for the SNP's change of heart before I make a final judgement.

In the right-hand column I've put up a wee poll. Please vote if you have time.  The results will be interesting.


JuliaM said...

"Would the amalgamation of our current forces effect the demise of ACPOS?  If that was the case then it's certainly a plus."

I suspect some sort of honorary membership of ACPO would be on the cars, if only one force remained, so maybe not much change at all?

JJ said...

Wouldn’t amalgamation create less efficiency and greater territorial tensions?

BrianSJ said...

Directly elected Police chiefs would be a good change. This would need units no bigger than we have now, and potentially smaller.

Witterings from Witney said...

SR, try casting your gaze south, over the channel!

English Pensioner said...

Dictators always want to centralise everything. The people generally want to decentralise.
The smaller the organisation, the easier it is for those that it is serving to ensure that it is doing the job properly.
Personally, I would prefer small localised police forces to deal with the routine policing matters, and a national force to handle major crimes, terrorism, diplomatic protection (similar to the FBI in the States). In effect, a modern variant on the old situation when local forces rarely investigated murders but "called in Scotland Yard".

Unknown said...

I'm with the majority in the voting. No service should be too large or too small. This will ensure good access to IT, training and equipment in the case of a large force and prevent Little Hitlers in a small force.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The question of one or eight is irrelevant to all but the Chief's and their entourage.

What is important is the methods and manner they adopt in order to police.

Are they the servants to Justice or the State? Do they uphold the Law, or break it with impunity in order to protect the State?

Do they harass the criminals without fear or favour or criminalise the citizen arguing for choice?

These are the things that matter, the claims of economic or functioning efficiencies are a moveable feast that will make little difference other than to those who are already at its table.

subrosa said...

You're possibly right Julia. Unfortunately.

subrosa said...

I'd be interested to know what information the Scottish government has about that JJ.

subrosa said...

Indeed Brian, that would be a good start to any reorganisation.

subrosa said...

Ah, I'm with you now WfW. Why didn't I think of that. Will we be told the true reason then? I'm not going to hold my breath.

subrosa said...

Isn't that what we're supposed to have now EP. Local police and national backup services?

subrosa said...

I've often wondered how well our eight Chief Constables get on John. Of course they have their wee organisation funded by us so there's no doubt their well looked after.

subrosa said...

Excellent questions RA and made me think.

Not having much to do with police, I can only say I feel the lines are somewhat smudged these days as I don't think they're servants to anyone.

All Seeing Eye said...

I don't think the "far removed" argument has legs. You can use that argument across different parts of a reasonably small town, and if it had much merit you'd have a different Force for every borough in London.

The tech you can make work with enough effort. The parochial rivalries of each Force would disappear within a few amalgamated recruiting cycles. But I have much in common with Crinkly here; the fundamental relationship between police and public is damaged at the moment - and it's been caused by changing attitudes of the Police.

Address the current culture of the Police and half of the issues people think would be fixed by amalgamations or other things would actually go away.

Strathturret said...

Personally I think three or four forces would make most sense for Scotland.

I'm nervous of one force. Who would investigate irregularities in that force?

Another idea might be to have one national CID and leave the uniformed lot as is?

Trooper Thompson said...

What possible benefit will accrue from such a centralisation?

Cash savings? I doubt it. They will still need the geographical spread of resources, and reorganisations cost money.

More efficiency? I doubt that too. Besides, efficiency is something usually viewed from the top, and what is efficient for the top coppers is not necessarily the same thing for the citizens.

Strathturret said...

Each force has HR, Finance, Purchasing and IT sections not to mention a top heavy and expensive layer of brass-hats. If you take out several forces and Central and D&G are very small you should make sizable savings in the back office. And we're short of money!

Anonymous said...

I just woke up and I'm not entirely sure I'm getting the gist of this article (too much information for my tired brain to process). Is this saying that the entire country will have one single police force? If so, that sounds scary to me, because then they may as well just call it a single army patrolling the streets, and although that may just be semantics (police, soldiers) that gives me the New Years chills.

Anonymous said...

We must have LOCAL police forces. The SNP will lose votes if it goes for one big national police force.

- Aangirfan

subrosa said...

I tend to think we need local policing and not in one force ASE. In the past couple o years here the local police station is only open office hours and people miss being able to pop in at any time or phone.

Medical care has gone into call centre mode out of hours and the police has too. If it becomes one big force then the 'big' boys from Strathclyde will surely rule the roost.

subrosa said...

Having a national CID is a good idea Strathturret. In Germany the police and CID are separate with the police being local and the others national.

Four forces would be the minimum surely, otherwise rural policing would disappear.

subrosa said...

It's said savings could be made in 'backroom' costs Trooper but as you suggest the word is 'could' not 'shall'.

subrosa said...

That's what's now being suggested or will be on 12 January by the SNP Rate of Dissent.

Hope you're waken now.

subrosa said...

Yes I think so Aangirfan.

Apogee said...

Hi SR. I think the first question should be, where is the driving force for this reorganisation coming from?As the comments so far seem to say, there is not a lot of public trust in the Police and their organisation, in particular, how is a private company,ACPO, able to effectively run the Police under civil service employment rules?Anyone employed by the government has to be very careful if they have a second job, so what gives here?What is the legal basis of ACPO?
The police force was originally set up for the purpose of keeping the peasantry under control, any benefit for the peasantry (us) was collateral only. It seems that a lot of people still see it this way.
So why and for who? EU directives of some sort? Electoral advantage?
Seeing the direction 'Policing' is taking in the EU we should should be asking many more questions than how many police organisations we need. much more important is what type of policing we will receive, what has happened on the Continent gives a feeling of unease, the examples so far are not good. Are we heading for the status of an occupied country. ( Yes, some people would say we have been for the last 300 years).

subrosa said...

I've always thought ACPO and ACPOS a 'jobs for the boys' organisation which promotes these people to this country's elite at the expense of taxpayers Apogee.

WfW perhaps hit the nail on the head when he mentioned 'look way south'. I take it he means the EU. There must be money in this somewhere.

Anonymous said...

What Alex said at the party after the conference was that they would look into all the possibilities to keep as many policemen on the streets as possible. He said that 25% of the funding for police went on head office functions.

That should be cut. Too many people on fabulous salaries with not enough to do.

Of course the organisation would have to reflect the differences in the regions of the country, but surely that can be done without having the range of management at the top in each area.

After all Lothians and Borders police the country, the capital, including Morningside and Craig Miller, and parliament. Just with different divisions responsible for the different areas.

Let's get rid of as much management as we possibly can. Put THEM on the dole and keep the bobby on the street that has provided us with these low crime rates.

subrosa said...

Thanks for clarifying that Tris. So there was no mention of reducing the number of forces?

Part of the problem of course is that too many police officers return as ROs once they've retired some around 50. That practice has to stop.

Occasionally I've thought Tayside and Aberdeen could join up because quite a bit of their work overlaps - or used to do.

We had bobbies on the streets long before we has this setup and ACPOS.

Strathturret said...

If we had one force, I'd have thought that ACPOS would be redundant?

Anonymous said...

Well I didn't hear his speech at conference, SR, which is of course what REALLY counts, but I was at the same party as he was after conference, and he made a speech there, a fairly informal one, saying that it was one of the things that parliament and the government could be proud of. The extra men on the street had reduced crime, and there was no way that he would put that at risk. They would look at every possibility to ensure that the English government's cuts with consequentials for Scotland, would not affect the hard fought and won reduction in crime, and the fact that the clear-up rate had improved.

He went on to talk about the fact that 25% of the costs of running the police was “head office” costs. Senior management.

Clearly if you have fewer forces, you have fewer people at the top claiming huge salaries and having drivers and tea makers and diary secretaries and so on. Of course that could indicate that what he would do is strip out the superfluous managers in all the head offices, so that the Chief Constable drove himself and made his own tea, as if he were a human being and not some sort of god.

Alternatively it could mean that if there were only one chief constable then there would only need for few support staff.

What i took out of it was that he would not do what the English are doing, or appear to be doing, and reducing the number of bobbies on the beat.

Yes, I agree with you. There are plenty of desk jobs for policemen no longer young and fit enough to be beat men running after crims. There’s no way they should retire and take pensions for 40 years and go on working!

Strathturret said...

I was at conference and heard AS first hand. My memory is that he quoted the 25% cost figure was down to HQ costs. He did not say what he would do but said he would not let 'the cuts' affect Bobbies on the Beat'.

The clear inference was he would target HQ costs.

subrosa said...

I think I got my information from the Hootsman Tris, so I wouldn't say it's dependable. Sorry but I can't find it now.

My main point is that the greatest expense these days is on IT and paperwork (aside frontline services). Too much bureaucracy has swelled the payroll of the police service.

subrosa said...

That's good of you to let me know Strathturret.

I've just found the bit in the Scotsman. The announcement will shock many after First Minister Alex Salmond indicated a preference for three or four forces during October's SNP conference in his "bobbies before boundaries" speech."

Got it from here:

subrosa said...

I'd very much like to see it disbanded Strathturret. What use is it anyway other than heid bummers stroking each others' ego.

Unknown said...

Maybe it would be interesting for your readers to have an understanding of how Strathclyde Police's community policing operation works in practice - since Strathclyde seems to be painted as a bit of a villain here - because for the vast majority of people their main relationship with the police is with community-based officers.

The service has been pretty comprehensively re-structured and now community police teams are organised on a local authority ward basis. They are easily contactable and community police now hold open surgeries as well as going along to community council meetings etc.

In each ward they held a consultation on what the local priorities are e.g. whether it is youth disorder, drug dealing, speeding, drinking in public etc. The community policing team then prioritised whatever local people thought was the biggest problem.

On the Strathclyde Police website they publish a breakdown of crime, anti social behaviour and road collisions in the ward areas, so that people can monitor the changes over time - you can also see where the biggest reductions in crime reflect the priority that the police have given to it.

Basically you don't get any more local than this and if other forces mirror what Strathclyde has done I really don't see why there needs to be a problem - indeed pretty much everyone I know thinks that the reforms brought in by Stephen House are excellent. The police are much more visible and proactive and gone are the days when you phoned the police and had to wait ages for someone to come out. I have never known public trust in the police to be as high as it is now.

subrosa said...

Most interesting comment, thank you K.

I knew little or nothing about Strathclyde police before - mainly because I'm in the east - but it's good to know they've upped their game in recent years.

Yes they're always mentioned in policing issues, possibly because they're the biggest force by far.

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