Council gets cash back if community police axed

PIC LISA FERGUSON  06/05/2014'Police Officers from Leith Police Station take part in Operation Wolf today around the Leith area'Local officers will be conducting high-visibility patrols in the Leith area and conducting stop and searches to deter and detect a variety of offences.'PC David Hamilton and PC Chris Campbell are part of todays operation
PIC LISA FERGUSON 06/05/2014'Police Officers from Leith Police Station take part in Operation Wolf today around the Leith area'Local officers will be conducting high-visibility patrols in the Leith area and conducting stop and searches to deter and detect a variety of offences.'PC David Hamilton and PC Chris Campbell are part of todays operation
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A “MONEY-back” guarantee has been agreed with police to help ensure a team of dedicated community officers are not diverted to other duties.

The council had threatened to cut its annual £2.6 million funding for extra officers amid claims they were not being used for grassroots policing, such as tackling antisocial behaviour.

But city leaders agreed to continue the payments after assurances from Chief ­­Constable Sir Stephen House and Edinburgh policing commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams.

And now they have signed an agreement – the first of its kind – which gives city leaders the right to a refund if officers are switched from their community role without approval.

The city council’s cash pays for 44 community constables and 12 city centre officers.

And the agreement says local communities will be given a list, naming the individual officers funded by the council.

Council leader Andrew Burns said the agreement was “very positive” – but said he hoped the arrangement would never be needed.

He said: “I’m very pleased we have been able to sign this agreement with the police. It’s the first time this has been done. It will give us some ­reassurance the money is being spent on additional services. It gives us a robust basis on which to monitor progress.

“I’d like to think the clause on clawing back money will never be utilised.”

The agreement says Police Scotland will ensure officers’ work in the community is not disrupted by them being diverted to any other police duties “except for a short period of time in a genuine emergency, such as an incident of domestic terrorism, or unexpected period of high demand”.

It adds that in the event of potential disruption, the police will give as much notice as is possible. And it says if staff are diverted without prior agreement “the council shall be entitled to reduce or recover a proportionate part of the funding”.

The agreement also guarantees community policing teams will be involved in road safety programmes in schools. There was a storm of protest last year when it was revealed Police Scotland had axed teams.

After the formation of the single police force, there were complaints police officers were no longer attending community council meetings, fuelling concerns that council cash was being used to fund other police responsibilities.

Attendance at community meetings is not in the agreement. Cllr Burns said he was confident the issue had been resolved by shift pattern changes, meaning officers were more likely to be available.

Tory group leader and former policeman Cameron Rose welcomed the agreement. He said: “It’s important we know how the additional money is being spent and we are getting good value for it.”

Superintendent Matt Richards said: “The agreement ­represents a real chance to build on safety and security in communities across the city.”

Responsibilities in the agreement

COMMUNITY policing responsibilities set out in the agreement include:

• Neighbourhood patrols to deter offences in known hot-spots

• Supporting evictions and antisocial behaviour orders through the courts

• Joint visits to people or properties over anti-social behaviour.

• Enforcing 20mph speed limits and targeting speeding drivers.

• Supporting national campaigns on drink/drugged driving, speeding, seatbelt and mobile phone use.

• Targeting use of motor cycles, mini-mopeds, etc.

• Involvement in road safety and cycle training in schools.

• Supporting campaigns aimed at high-risk groups, cyclists, elderly and young drivers.

• Backing up day-to-day work with young offenders.