Scotland's Police Force Facing Claims It Lacks Accountability

By Peterkin, Tom | Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), March 30, 2014 | Go to article overview

Scotland's Police Force Facing Claims It Lacks Accountability


Peterkin, Tom, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland)


POLICE Scotland was last night facing an accountability crisis as the country's single nationwide force celebrates its first anniversary.There are claims the force is not being subjected to proper democratic scrutiny and that councils are not doing enough to influence police strategy and budget.The General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents 18,500 of the country's police officers, has admitted the single force lacks local accountability.Calum Smith has claimed local authorities are not doing enough to hold Police Scotland to account and there is widespread concern from councillors themselves, who believe the abolition of joint police boards has robbed them of a powerful mechanism to influence how the police operate.The issue will come to a head this week when the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the nationwide body set up to scrutinise Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House, holds a meeting with local politicians in an attempt to improve the situation.The SPA has contacted the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to organise the meeting, which will see councillors with responsibility for policing discuss their plans with the SPA board.Speaking to Scotland on Sunday ahead of the first anniversary of the establishment of the single force, Smith claims councils have failed to take the initiative to ensure that police commanders are questioned by elected representatives.According to Smith, Scotland's new policing structure, which has seen Police Scotland split into 14 divisions under a local policing commander, provides the scope for an effective system of local accountability."For whatever reason, local authorities haven't utilised the blank canvas to the best of their ability. They do feel that there is a denigration in the level of local accountability that exists. It is fair to say that on that denigration they are correct," Smith told Scotland on Sunday."But I very strongly believe that the power to alter it rests with local authorities. There is nothing to prevent the full sitting of council calling their local commander before them on a frequency agreed between themselves - every six weeks, every eight weeks, every month if they wanted. They could hold that commander directly accountable for policing performance in that area."It wouldn't be beyond their collective wit to arrange a meeting with their local assistant chief constable as well to make sure that where any issues are unresolved to hold him to account for a lack of performance."But they haven't done that. I believe local authorities have missed a trick on this. How often do you hear local authorities complaining that it is overly restricted and can't deliver because of central government dictat? Well, that is absolutely not true in these circumstances."The SPA has stated the views of councillors ought to be taken into account by the local commander when local police plans are developed via council committees. In the year since the new force was created, the SPA has been discussing accountability arrangements with local authorities. …

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