The Thinning Blue Line
This report builds on the work Reform Scotland has done in Power to Protect (2008) and Striking the Balance (2011) which both examined the structure of policing in Scotland. We believe that just because the law is set centrally, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a centralised police system, and it is vital that there is greater room for flexibility. The report will argue that although the previous system was far from perfect; the change from nine forces (eight regional as well as the SCDEA) into one was more of a takeover by Strathclyde Police Force, as opposed to a merger.
While the report recognises that wholesale police re-organisation is unlikely to happen so soon after the creation of the single police force, it does, recommend changes to the funding and governance structures in order to re-inject local accountability back into policing.
As well as considering the centralisation of the police, the report will also question the success of another Scottish Government policing policy, the 1,000 extra police officers, by pointing out that the number of crimes being cleared-up, or solved, has actually fallen by nearly 60,000 since 2006/7, when the 1,000 additional officers policy was introduced. This fall in cleared-up crime is despite additional officers and falling crime levels. As a result, the number of crimes cleared-up per FTE police officer has fallen from 12 in 2006/7 to 8 in 2013/14.
Whether this is as a result of officers having to spend more time covering work previously carried out by civilian staff is unclear. However, this certainly raises questions over efficiencies and value for money, as well as suggesting that the pledge has not led to 1,000 additional officers patrolling Scottish streets.