Chiefs unite to rally against merger plan

‘No ev­i­dence to sup­port sin­gle po­lice force’

Evening Express (Extra Edition) - - NEWS - By Gavin Roberts crime re­porter groberts

THREE of Scot­land’s most se­nior po­lice­men joined forces to­day to warn against a sin­gle force claim­ing it would be ex­pen­sive, re­duce the num­ber of front­line of­fi­cers and raise fears of gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence.

Grampian Po­lice’s Colin McKer­racher and his coun­ter­parts Pat Shearer, of Dum­fries and Gal­loway and Ge­orge Graham, of North­ern Con­stab­u­lary have writ­ten a letter chal­leng­ing Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Kenny Ma­cAskill’s claim that Scot­land’s eight po­lice forces are now “un­ten­able”.

With a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment con­sul­ta­tion un­der way into the pos­si­bil­ity of a sin­gle force the chiefs said there was a lack of ev­i­dence in sup­port of a merger, which they claimed would be ex­pen­sive with no guar­an­tee of cre­at­ing sav­ings.

The state­ment, signed by all three, said: “As three Chief Con­sta­bles with sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence of polic­ing in Scot­land, we are con­scious of the cur­rent de­bate and on­go­ing con­sul­ta­tion re­lat­ing to the re­form of the Scot­tish Po­lice Ser­vice.

“We now be­lieve in fair­ness to our own of­fi­cers and staff, and to the com­mu­ni­ties we po­lice, that it is time for us to make our pro­fes­sional po­si­tion clear.”

“The fi­nan­cial cri­sis has caused us to re­view our ap­proach to the de­liv­ery of polic­ing but un­for­tu­nately this re­view has very quickly been over­taken by a struc­tures de­bate where al­most all of the ef­fort and po­lit­i­cal rhetoric ap­pears to be fo­cused on a sin­gle po­lice force for Scot­land with lit­tle qual­ity re­search or value be­ing at­tached to a ro­bust ev­i­den­tial ap­proach.

“The safety of our com­mu­ni­ties is too im­por­tant to be de­ter­mined by such an ap­proach where lit­tle cog­ni­sance seems to be be­ing taken of cur­rent per­for­mance and the com­plex­ity, costs or timescales of change pro­posed or the sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in po­lice of­fi­cers and staff associated with the change.”

The chiefs said all the ev­i­dence showed al­most all ma­jor pub­lic sec­tor re­form since 1980 had failed and “cre­ated a loss of strate­gic fo­cus, per­for­mance and morale”.

The state­ment de­scribed the cur­rent struc­ture as “tried and tested” and said it would be bet­ter to tackle strengths and op­por­tu­ni­ties than be­come “dis­tracted by struc­tures and bound­aries”.

Com­ment­ing on the joint state­ment of the chief con­sta­bles, Com­mu­nity Safety Min­is­ter Fer­gus Ewing said the con­sul­ta­tion into a sin­gle force by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment was on­go­ing.

He added: “The ap­pro­pri­ate time to de­cide on whether the re­form op­tion should be a re­gional struc­ture of three or four, or one force, is once all the ev­i­dence and views have been re­ceived in re­sponse to the con­sul­ta­tion.”

CRIT­I­CAL: Colin McKer­racher.

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