Creating a force fit for the future

In this ever-changing world we now live in, how do you create a police force that is fit for the future?

It’s a complex question with an answer which is equally multi-layered.

And it’s made all the more difficult when you take into consideration more than 22,000 employees and a nation with high expectations.

But it’s a question Police Scotland has tried to answer in its latest ten year strategy.

‘2026: Serving a Changing Scotland’ delves into just how it will shape up in future.

The document is currently out to public consultation and Phil Gormley, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, is pleased with the response so far.

However, he is keen that people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland get their say.

He said: “Many individuals and organisations have already been consulted in the months we spent on the strategy with our partners.

“We’re pleased with the response we’ve had but we want to know what people think in communities across the country.

“What people want in Glasgow and Edinburgh, for example, may be vastly different from those in our rural communities.

“So we’re keen to hear from people, right across the country, whose views will be used when finalising our future strategy.”

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the document and next week we’ll share Mr Gormley’s and Scottish Police Association chairman Andrew Flanagan’s views on the future vision.

The 2026 document has five key components – protection, prevention, communities, knowledge and innovation. But what does that actually mean?

There is little argument that the way our country is policed has changed dramatically in recent years, not least the transition from eight divisions to one in 2013.

The focus at that time was ensuring as smooth a transition as possible, with local solutions to local problems still being at the heart of Police Scotland.

Now, the focus is turning on precious resources and how to free up officers’ time. Technology plays a part as does ensuring the right person is in the right job.

With that in mind, the consultation suggests a shake-up of back office staff, as well as corporate and business support services which in 2013 remained largely untouched.

That will mean some pain, with job losses likely but there will be gains too.

Currently, around 300 officers are in office-based roles but, if the strategy is ratified, they could soon be back on the frontline.

Recruitment is also in line for a shake-up, with the force offering flexibile career paths to attract the best candidate for each role.

Another major weapon is using modern technology to the force’s advantage.

Arguably, this is long overdue when you consider many officers don’t even have sat navs in their vehicles.

The force is admittedly behind in the technology stakes but, learning from other forces, it aims to arm its officers with tools they need to stay on duty in our local communities, rather than returning to base.

Bodyworn cameras are likely to become the norm, as are smartphones.

Partnership working is another cornerstone of the strategy. Budgets for all our public services are stretched and look likely to remain that way. There’s no magic bullet to help the police, NHS, ambulance, fire service or local authorities.

Therefore, unique solutions to joint problems need to be considered to pool valuable resources and act as a preventative measure.

One example of this is a pilot project in Aberdeen bringing the police, fire and rescue, NHS, social care and housing into one office.

Together, they have been able to tackle a variety of anti-social behaviour, mental health and missing person cases which is freeing up resources for them all.

Police Scotland also wants to change the way it communicates with the public. Modern technology is key here too, with an online community portal being investigated as a means of improving communication.

That means the public can get the service they really want, while officers are targeted in areas where they are needed most locally.

* 2026: Serving a Changing Scotland is out to public consultation now. The full strategy document can be found: here

Responses can be submitted via: website by May 8.