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New Police Scotland chief declares commitment to unified force

By DPF Admin7th January 2016August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The incoming head of Police Scotland has made clear his commitment to a unified Scottish force, describing it as “the way forward” in adapting to the new demands of policing.

Acknowledging that the unified force – which was formed in 2013 with the merger of eight regional forces – had experienced “some very significant reputational issues” in the past year, Phil Gormley insisted: “I don’t buy into the notion that it’s a project that was ill advised. The reality is that forces are having to find ways to adapt to the future and my judgment is that the decision to create Police Scotland was the way forward.”

Speaking the day after being formally sworn in during a ceremony at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan Castle, Fife, Gormley added: “What we’ve got the opportunity here to do is the develop a local service that is relevant to communities which are disparate and various across this country, but still have that scale and capability centrally to develop those specialist areas that are going to be absolutely vital.”

Gormley’s predecessor, Sir Stephen House, stepped down early last autumn after facing growing calls for his resignation following a series of policing failures and controversies over civil liberties.

Last July, a woman was left dying on a motorway verge after officers failed to respond to reports of a crashed car for three days; the Sierra Leonean man Shekhu Bayoh died in police custody last May; and there have been ongoing rows over the use of armed police patrols and stop and search powers, in particular with children.

Addressing these events directly, Gormley, the former Met commander and deputy director general of the National Crime Agency said: “It’s self-evident that there are some significant issues of major public concern that have happened in the last 12 months. I don’t minimise them, but what I do believe is that people’s experience of policing on a daily basis is not typified by those examples.”

Asked about a recent Audit Scotland report which warned of a £85m shortfall in police funding, Gormley said he would be “naive not to be concerned about that” but added that one of his earliest challenges in the new post would be to define “what does a sustainable operational model look like?”

Gormley said: “The mission of Police Scotland has to be about providing the best service and protection possible with the money that’s available and that will lead to some conversations about what the priorities are. I think we need to do that in an open and consultative way because the public will need to make some decisions – as will politicians – around what is it that they value, and we need to explain the consequences of those choices.”

Speaking at the first of what he intends to be regular press briefings – marking a distinct change in style from his predecessor – he said that another present challenge was the policing of new types of crime, in particular cybercrimes and the rise in online child pornography, as well as the privacy issues this raised for politicians and citizens. This would require the right balance between officers on the street, and those with forensic and cybercrime expertise, he added.

Gormley also said that he thought that the public were realistic about the use of armed officers, particularly following the Paris attacks. “I think people recognise that the world has changed and the sorts of threat they are having to contemplate requires an armed police response. I don’t think we’re anywhere near needing a routinely armed service.”

Acknowledging the level of political interest and media scrutiny that comes with his new role, Gormley said bluntly: “I do recognise it is going to be relentless.”

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