Skip to main content

Kath Murray: Major reforms are not the answer to problems facing Police Scotland

By DPF Admin26th August 2015August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

Root and branch reform is not the answer to Police Scotland’s problems, principally because centralisation per se is not the cause.

In the first instance, the reform process acted to expose existing weakness in Scottish policing, including a long-standing accountability deficit, piecemeal local scrutiny and a laissez-faire approach to regulation at the centre.

Police reform also highlighted policies which previously passed beneath the radar, including high-volume stop and search and letting armed response officers carry out routine duties.

We should be wary of looking back through rose-tinted glasses.

Scottish policing now operates in a more heated and visible environment. The new service has been subject to an unprecedented level of media attention. Yet it remains that the current governance arrangements are conducive to controversy.

Problems appear to rattle on without action, which in itself creates further criticism.

Policing, by its very nature, is likely to generate problems.

The fact these are now played out in public is a game changer for Scottish policing and those who hold the police to account.

The new lines of power and responsibility need to be made clearer, and properly adhered to, with more critical distance between the key players.

To date we’ve seen a good deal of post-hoc scrutiny from various bodies, including the justice committee and the Scottish Police Authority.

But there doesn’t appear to be a clear and comprehensive structure for police accountability in terms of policy development, oversight and evaluation – or at least not one that is working well.

This work is demanding, which means central and local oversight bodies need to be adequately resourced.

In its submission to the independent advisory group on stop and search, Highland Council’s scrutiny committee said data on stop and search had been unavailable for more than a year.

The single service in itself is not the problem.

If anything, police reform has thrown a critical spotlight on issues that need to be addressed, some of which predate Police Scotland.

Newer concerns, including a perceived overemphasis on national priorities, targets and a related loss of localism are clearly linked to decisions undertaken by the single service.

Yet as the president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents has pointed out, stronger local policing can be delivered without root-and-branch reform.

Also, the current governance arrangements can be tightened and clarified without further structural upheaval.

As the Chief Constable and chairman of the Scottish Police Authority have observed, the degree of scrutiny directed towards Scottish policing has never been greater.

At stake, then, is how Police Scotland and those charged with the oversight and regulation of Scottish policing respond to the challenges and issues raised.

Dr Kath Murray is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh who has carried out research into stop

Source, image source 

Leave a Reply

Close Menu