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Police Scotland's Chief Constable Iain Livingstone just got a big vote of confidence...

.....but there's much work still to be done.

Here's my latest column in the Scotsman (published 8th November 2021).

Hidden behind the wall-to-wall coverage of COP26, another story broke last week.

The Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone and two of his senior deputies, Fiona Taylor and Will Kerr, had their contracts of service extended by three years, the maximum allowed.


It is a well-merited endorsement and plain common sense. The force has a talented and well-balanced top team, and besides, their work is only half done.

New brooms are all very well, but they tend to sweep away the good with the bad. There have already been too many, it is a time for stability or as much as is possible for a service always hostage to ‘events’.


It has not all been roses. The 2015 M9 crash which resulted in the deaths of two young people was a calamity and a failure of policing systems. Other legacy issues lie in wait, but once the smoke clears from COP26 – and assuming the mob have not triumphed – the outlook for Scotland’s police chiefs is both positive and challenging.


Diversity poses a huge challenge to all public bodies, particularly the police service. Accusations of racism and misogyny abound, and some will be true.


It is an old problem. A police service should reflect the community it serves, but recruiting and retaining some ethnic minorities remains difficult. Likewise for promoted posts. All ranks should ideally mirror the racial and gender balance of the organisation. Police Scotland has an enviable record in this area but there is no room for complacency.


Then there is the Police Complaints System now much maligned as secretive and unaccountable. The system has served well but is now beyond tinkering. The guddle of overlapping responsibilities, with internal and external bodies, is no longer fit for the 21st century. A new streamlined and transparent system which can inspire public confidence is required.


Good police officers have nothing to fear, but such a major change will require legislation. It will be far from simple.


But behind these major challenges lies the biggest task of all for the Chief Constable and his team – how to keep enough boots on the ground.


Traditionally police forces operated on a 70/30 ratio – 70 per cent of their strength was deployed on the street as a visible patrol and response force, while 30 per cent supported them in specialist roles like CID, traffic etc.


For many years this balance held good, but in the last 20 years demands for specialist roles have grown. Cyber-crime, counter-terrorism and historic sexual crime all demand highly specialised investigation. The demand appears insatiable and the extra officers required can only come from one place – the street.


In some areas the 70/30 ratio has almost been reversed. It is an ongoing struggle .

The Chief Constable and his team deserve the vote of confidence the extension to their contracts reflects. But the next three years will be no picnic.


Even with COP26 behind them, Scotland’s police face a challenging future.


The article is also available from www.scotsman.com by clicking here.


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