Cuts to policing cannot continue, warn officers
Scotland’s communities will be put at risk should current budgetary cuts facing police continue, rank and file members warned today.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, told the union’s biennial conference that there is “no spare capacity” within the force in light of severe budgetary cuts.
It came after Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, warned that “extreme measures” would be needed to achieve the savings required over the next 12 months.
“The police budget is being cut – it can be cut no more,” said Docherty. “The expectation to make more savings cannot be delivered without hurting the police service, police pay and police numbers.”
Officers are owed so many hours of unpaid overtime, it would “almost bankrupt the service if the debt was called in now”, he added.
“Expecting the police to do more with less is fanciful nonsense,” said Docherty. “All that can be delivered with less is less.
“The police will always be the service of last resort but with less, the safety net we provide will be less effective than ever before. More of our communities will be let down and more of our most vulnerable will end up being forgotten about.
“There is a danger that all the preventative work we currently do which is already under threat, will become a thing of the past.
“Communities we have spent years investing in will feel betrayed and abandoned by the only service that has taken the time to get to know them.”
The SPF chairman also hit out at the use of targets within the single force. Police Scotland has insisted a volume target for stop and search does not exist, though Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) found some officers felt under pressure to drive up the number of stop searches.
Senior police chiefs this week confirmed their intention to remove a 20 per cent target for the proportion of stop and searches deemed positive from their performance framework.
“Police statistics have become something of a newspeak for the way in which we quantify success,” Docherty said.
“They demand swathes of resources and if things keep going as they currently are, we will soon have more people counting than we will actually delivering the job.
“We might never be free of targets, but unless they undergo major adjustments then we will continue along this road of policing for statistics instead of policing for the public.”
However, the SPF chairman insisted non-statutory stop and search is an “important feature of a police officer’s toolkit” as he argued against it being scrapped.
The Scottish Government has launched a new independent advisory group, chaired by solicitor advocate John Scott QC, to consider the use of stop and search powers in Scotland.