EDINBURGH’S new police commander has pledged his priorities will be dictated by the people of the city.
Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald takes the helm in the Capital almost three years into the life of Police Scotland, the single force whose formation sparked claims of “Glasgowfication” with policing methods from the old Strathclyde force implemented across the country.
But he makes it clear he wants to deliver local policing, responding to what communities feel they need.
Sitting in his office at St Leonard’s police station, he said: “I very strongly hold the view I’m the divisional commander for Edinburgh and I have the ability to direct resources as required to address the issues we have locally and that’s what matters.
“That’s the responsibility I’m charged with and I will deliver effective policing for Edinburgh.”
Mr MacDonald, 45, took up his new post a couple of weeks ago after a brief stint as divisional commander in Lanarkshire. But immediately before that he had spent two years in Edinburgh as one of the division’s four superintendents.
He was in charge of events policing, including major football matches, rugby internationals and Hogmanay celebrations away from the city centre.
Mr MacDonald, married with two children, comes from Glasgow and went to Glasgow University, where he took an honours degree in economics and management studies. After university, he spent a year in Hong Kong and worked in a variety of pubs and clubs in Glasgow before joining the police in 1994.
Most of his career has been spent in uniformed roles in and around Glasgow, although around 12 years ago he was seconded for seven months to work with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary at St Andrew’s House looking at performance management.
“It was a very interesting time and it gave me the opportunity to see policing right across the country.”
His new role puts him in charge of 1300 police officers, 240 police staff and all policing within the city boundaries.
“It’s a huge privilege to be the divisional commander for Edinburgh,” he said.
“It’s a city I love. I thoroughly enjoyed my previous time here. Edinburgh is a very vibrant city and I’m delighted to be back as commander.”
Concerns about “Glasgowfication” – fuelled by a crackdown on Edinburgh’s saunas in the early days of Police Scotland and later dramatic statistics on the use of stop and search powers – may have eased since the departure at the end of last year of Sir Stephen House, the former Strathclyde chief constable who was put in charge of the single force.
His replacement, Phil Gormley, visited the north of Edinburgh just last week and spoke of the need for the police to “tailor” the service they offer to different communities.
Mr MacDonald has a similar theme when he talks about his approach as the new commander in the Capital.
“The biggest priority I have is to listen to the people of Edinburgh about what their priorities are.
“I’m very keen to make sure the policing that we provide is responsive to what the community of Edinburgh wants, that we tackle the local issues identified through public consultation because it’s local policing and local delivery that’s most important – and that’s what I believe the people of Edinburgh want from their local police.”
At the moment, he says, the focus is on public safety, tackling serious and organised crime and housebreaking and vehicle crime.
Housebreaking was an example of an area where the change from Lothian and Borders Police to Police Scotland seemed to make things worse. The Capital’s dedicated squads which specialised in tackling housebreaking were disbanded and break-ins soared.
But Mr MacDonald’s predecessor, Mark Williams, acted quickly to restored the specialist units under Operation RAC and the figures fell again.
Mr MacDonald said: “The city has had challenges about housebreaking which have been well documented. I have a real commitment to make sure we continue to have a very effective response to tackling housebreaking and vehicle crime.
And I will continue the work that Mark Williams started and continue with dedicated housebreaking units.”
The debate on stop and search goes on.
Recent figures show a big drop across Scotland in the use of the power, although teenagers are targeted the most despite being least likely to be found with anything.
Mr MacDonald says: “It’s for the people of Scotland to decide how they want their police to deliver stop and search.
“For me as a professional police officer that’s still a valid tactic for officers to use in an appropriate manner at appropriate times in appropriate places.
“I don’t think anyone would want us not to have that tool at our disposal.
“My officers know that and use it as a proportionate and legitimate tactic as required.” Edinburgh’s council chiefs proposed slashing funding for community police officers by almost a fifth as part of their original budget plans for next year – cutting the council’s £2.6 million police grant cut by £500,000.
But the reduction did not form part of the final financial package approved for 2016/17.
Mr MacDonald says: “I would like to thank the city council for continuing to show faith in their local police and continuing to fund the additional officers we have to support community policing in the city.
“These officer provide a very strong community link with members of the public and a really effective local service.”
He says the formation of Police Scotland means he can draw on national police resources as and when required, but the heart of policing in the Capital remains officers who are committed to the communities they serve.
“What’s most important is delivering local policing that addresses local issues in the most appropriate manner for those local communities.
“Even within Edinburgh there are different communities and I want to ensure we deliver appropriate service to all of the people of Edinburgh.”
He welcomed the latest figures showing an overall fall in crime in the city. But he added: “We police by consent and we need the support of the public to deliver effective policing and it’s with that public support we’ll make the greatest difference.”