More consistent approach needed in policing across Scotland, says watchdog

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Police Scotland has been urged to deliver a more clear and consistent approach by a watchdog.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) has published its review of how the force can meet targets.

It will assist Police Scotland in identifying and agreeing priorities and preparing its annual policing plans.

The document, released on Thursday, outlines 12 recommendations for the Police Scotland and Scottish Policing Authority to follow to meet objectives set out in the Annual Police Plan for 2018-19.

It was recommended both bodies “develop a clear process for governance and engagement around strategic assessment”, with a consideration given for their priorities.

The report advised Police Scotland to develop a “transparent and consistent method” for reporting the deployment of specialist or national support resources in the country.

Police Scotland was also urged to set out a Scottish policing model to provide a “level of consistency” required for a national force, while maintaining a level for the “empowerment of divisional commanders to localise their approaches”.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Gillian Imery, said: “We have found that the main elements of the strategic assessment, priority setting, planning and delivery are in place and deliver effective policing on a day to day basis.

“However, there remains a lack of clarity and consistency of approach across the country.

“We make specific comment on the extent to which equity of access to specialist resources has been achieved.

“Inconsistent recording of specialist and national resource allocation and limited transparency or assurance around the impact or effectiveness of their deployment, means that Police Scotland is unable to fully demonstrate the value of the work being delivered to communities across the country.”

She added: “The current annual policing plan is an improvement on previous ones, however, the inspection team found priorities have not been tailored to look at specific local areas of risk, many cannot be delivered in a year nor can their outcomes be clearly measured or identified.

“They also found that many within the organisation found the preparation of the plan to be onerous and of little relevance to them.

“In addition, the move away from Police Scotland’s early focus on performance to one of more local flexibility has led to many managers being unsure as to what is now expected of them in terms of strategic assessment, tasking and delivery and performance reporting.”

Mrs Imery also said a decreasing numbers of analysts was leading to gaps in provision and inequitable distribution of experienced personnel across the country.

“The provision of this vital area of expertise has become inconsistent and of variable quality, there having been under investment in both its capability and capacity,” she said.

“The previous emphasis and continued reliance on performance information has deskilled the intelligence analyst function and alignment to the specialist crime division is essential to address this in the future.”

HMICS was established under the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act in 2012 and has wide-ranging powers to look into the “state, effectiveness and efficiency” of both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Scottish ministers can also direct HMICS to look into anything related they consider to be appropriate.

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