Date: Thurs 7 Jan 2010
UNISON challenges 'very old-fashioned view of the deployment
of police staffs'
UNISON Letter to Holyrood Magazine in response to interview
with Stephen House in 7 December edition (http://www.holyrood.com/component/content/article/11-news-main/3186-strong-support-for-radical-policing-reform)
The apparent willingness of the Chief Constable of Strathclyde
Police "to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy" over shared services
doesn't appear to extend to his old-fashioned approach to policing.
The inevitable consequence of his 'police officers last' policy
is a return to 1970's policing, when police officers filled in
forms and answered telephones rather than patrolling the streets.
The greater use of police staffs in recent years is not just
about cost. It also enables specialist skills that do not feature
in generic police officer training to be deployed and ensures
that officers are available where the public wants them - fighting
crime in our communities.
At a time of budget cuts effective deployment of staff is even
more important. A report commissioned by UNISON shows that Scotland
is someway behind police forces south of the border in adopting
civilianisation. In England, police staffs make up on average
39% of the force, in Scotland the figure is only 28%. This disparity
cannot be explained by any structural difference in Scotland -
some forces here already exceed the English average for equivalent
In fact, Strathclyde Police is the poorest performer in Scotland
at only 25% and that may in part explain their current budget
crisis. In fairness to Stephen House this performance pre-dates
his tenure, but his approach will make the position much worse.
The approaches described by Stephen House in Holyrood, and in
his evidence to the Justice Committee, reflect a very old-fashioned
view of the deployment of police staffs.
Those offering 'challenging and radical ideas' should be willing
to apply them to their own profession, not just to other parts
of the public service.