THE number of community police officers in Edinburgh is being cut – but city commander Chief Superintendent Kenny Macdonald says the shake-up will mean a better service for local people.
And he gave an assurance there would still be named officers operating at grassroots level.
Earlier this year, the Evening News revealed concerns about impending cuts to local policing across the city after Inch Community Council was told the number of community officers in its area was being cut from seven to three.
Now Chief Supt Macdonald has confirmed an internal reorganisation will mean an increase in “response” officers, who are deployed to deal with crimes as they occur, and a parallel reduction in community officers.
But he said the change – due to take effect in October – would mean community officers were less likely to be diverted to other duties and would therefore have more time to devote to their community responsibilities.
He would not disclose the shift in numbers between community and response functions, but said under the new model there would be 37 named community officers funded by the police on top of 41 paid for by the city council.
Ch Supt Macdonald said the new arrangements were based on an hour-by-hour analysis of demand for immediate response. He said: “The model will allow us to ensure we have officers on to better match that level of demand while still maintaining a core element of officers focused on true community policing.
“Ensuring we have enough officers to deal with that immediate demand should mean the community officers will be ‘free-er’ to undertake their community duties. They will have more time to focus on local community issues.
“There will be fewer people, but in my view they will deliver a higher level of service.”
Ch Supt Macdonald said the public had made clear local policing was a priority for them. “What local people want is that known, identifiable officer in their community – that’s what I will deliver,” he said.
He has already given an assurance that the council-funded community police officers – two per ward plus a team of seven to cover the city centre – would not be used to plug a shortfall in Police Scotland personnel. He said the council-funded officers were additional and would remain so.
The Scottish Police Federation claimed earlier this week that officer numbers in Edinburgh had been cut from 70 per shift to 38 over the past five years, but Mr Macdonald called its figures “selective”.
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “I welcome anything that helps the police do their job more effectively, but I want to take a very close look to make sure we are having at least the same, if not more, officers on the ground as before and this will not lead to a reduction in policing. People in Edinburgh want more police on the streets, not less.