Review extra 1,000 police officers pledge, government urged
Reform Scotland call for governance changes but Scottish Government and Police Scotland dismiss report
Government ministers should reconsider their flagship commitment to 1,000 extra police officers amid figures showing fewer crimes are being solved in Scotland under the policy, according to a think tank.
Reform Scotland said almost 60,000 fewer crimes were cleared up in 2013-14 compared to 2006-07, despite a 35 per cent drop in recorded crime and an increase in officer numbers.
It has urged the Scottish Government to review their commitment to maintain officer numbers above 17,234 to see if it is delivering value for taxpayers’ money and argued staff deployment “should be an operational, as opposed to a political, decision”.
However, the Government last night labelled the report’s claims “wrong” given a rise in clear-up rates while Police Scotland said the study “does not reflect the delivery of modern policing in Scotland in 2015”.
Clear-up rates – the proportion of all recorded crimes where the evidence justifies consideration of criminal proceedings – increased from 47 per cent to 52 per cent between 2006-07 and 2013-14 and now represent the highest rate since records began.
This masks a “worrying trend”, though, Reform Scotland have argued, given that the actual number of crimes cleared up has fallen from 198,985 to 139,306 over the same period.
Research director Alison Payne said: “The figures speak for themselves. The number of police officers has increased yet fewer crimes are being solved.
“It has been suggested that police officers have to carry out duties previously carried out by civilian staff, which would certainly help explain this situation.
“After all, it is not just the number of police officers that is important, but how they are deployed.”
Reform Scotland has also called for a shake-up of current funding and governance arrangements to “re-inject localism into the existing structure”.
The think tank has called for a 50-50 funding split between local authorities and the Scottish Government and for a divisional commander to be put in charge of each local authority area in Scotland.
All local authorities should also be represented on the Scottish Police Authority, Reform Scotland urge.
Police Scotland deputy chief constable Neil Richardson said savings equivalent to the combined budgets of three legacy forces have been achieved at the same time as performance and confidence levels have remained high.
“There has never been more scrutiny of policing in Scotland and our performance is reported regularly in public locally and nationally,” he added.
“We remain committed to maintaining a minimum of 17,234 police officers who, working alongside police staff, work around the clock to deal with priorities set by communities and protecting public safety.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers remain committed to maintaining officer numbers.
“Police officers and staff are doing an excellent job out in our communities keeping people safe from harm and crime in Scotland is currently at a 40 year low,” she added.
“This report fails to recognise the important role of policing, and the 1,000 extra officers, in preventing crime, reducing threats and, crucially, providing public reassurance to ensure people feel safer in their communities.
“It also fails to recognise that with a 40-year low in recorded crime reduced crime, supported by increased numbers of officers means, of course, the clear-up rate per officer are going to be lower.”
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