Locals have ‘lost influence’ since police merger

Panels can only monitor and ask questions. Picture; Greg Macvean

Panels can only monitor and ask questions. Picture; Greg Macvean

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RESIDENTS and councillors feel they have lost influence over local policing since the creation of a single Scotland-wide force, Edinburgh’s community safety leader has claimed.

Three years on from the merger of eight forces into Police Scotland, Cammy Day said he would like to see some authority over policing handed back to councils.

An official response from the city council to a consultation on police priorities said: “It is imperative that Police Scotland does not lose sight of its responsibilities in terms of local accountability.”

And Cllr Day said: “Since we moved to Police Scotland the feeling of local members and community groups is they have less influence.

“When it was Lothian and Borders Police Board we had much more engagement with city chiefs, but now we’re all part of Police Scotland there is a national board which is arguably out of touch with what is happening in local communities.

“The council has a police and fire scrutiny committee which can only monitor and ask questions, it can’t make decisions, which the previous police board could.

“I really hope with this review the Scottish Government will recognise that and give more power to local authorities.”

The council response also highlighted concerns about the police response to incidents. It said: “Feedback from local communities has highlighted that they are not confident they will receive an adequate service, both in terms of response and follow up.”

Cllr Day said people were waiting “potentially days” for police to speak to them about incidents reported via the 101 non-emergency number.

He said: “If you have a break-in to your shed, it would be graded as a call not needing immediate attention – but that could mean a couple of days before the person gets a response. People are expecting the response to be a bit quicker than that.”

And the response noted it was difficult to maintain relationships at a local level since police officers were regularly moved around different areas within the force.

Cllr Day said: “The underlying issue is local bobbies get in place and a year or so later they are moved to a promoted post. It’s natural career progression, but it doesn’t help build up relationships.

“I would like community officers to be seen as one of the most important roles the police provide, and maybe not something people would want to move out of.”

Edinburgh police recently increased the number of “response” officers, who are deployed to deal with crimes as they occur, and a parallel reduction in community officers.

Edinburgh police commander Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald said: “Responding to calls from the public is a priority, and the policing model also addresses this – however calls must be assessed and graded appropriately and not everyone calling Police Scotland requires an officer to visit them.

“A large proportion of calls we receive are not related to crime, and there are many ways to contact us including online to report lost property and by coming and speaking to us at surgeries and local events.

“We recognise the importance of named local officers dedicated to and embedded within their communities, to build relationships and work with partners and local people themselves to identify and tackle issues and improve the quality of life for everyone.

“The changes that have recently been made to our policing model has this at its very core.”