The Herald

Next phase of police reform will be one of the most challengin­g yet

- MALCOLM GRAHAM

A column for outside contributo­rs. Contact: agenda@theherald.co.uk

THERE has been a quiet revolution in policing. The service I joined 22 years ago in 1995 is vastly different to the one in which I serve and which is about to go into 2017 with a vision of what the next decade will bring.

The police service in 10 years’ time will in all likelihood look very different again. It has to because the world around us, the society we live in and the communitie­s we police are constantly evolving.

The developmen­t of the service has happened steadily over time and without any real fanfare to speak of. Cumulative­ly, the changes over the years have been seismic, particular­ly when you consider our collective approach to issues such as domestic abuse, sexual crime, cyber-enabled crime and terrorism.

Yet the core of our service remains firmly in place: to protect communitie­s, keep people safe and prevent harm, all the while having human rights and the values of ethical policing embedded in what we do. For a public service with 200 years of history behind it, it’s remarkable but not surprising that those virtues still resonate with officers and staff in modern policing.

But the way in which we deliver policing has changed significan­tly. Technology has enabled the sharing of informatio­n far beyond our communitie­s and borders; communicat­ion is easier and more accessible than ever, making the world seem smaller and people closer than ever before; crime has diversifie­d – using technology and communicat­ions as enablers – and the service has had to respond to emerging threats and risks.

April 2013 brought about the single service and the structures through which we deliver policing were aligned into one organisati­on. That transition was achieved; the next phase of police reform will be one of the most challengin­g yet. The promise of success is a prize worth achieving.

The next 10 years will bring significan­t change in our communitie­s. They will become even more diverse and more digitallyc­onnected. Technology will be inseparabl­e from how we live our daily lives. Demand will continue to ebb and flow. We have had to respond to increases in sexual offending and the use of technology in that trend in many instances; to a growth in non-recent abuse investigat­ions; to an explosion in cyber crime and a correspond­ing need to cyber-police; and to rises in the number of people being reported missing.

When we ask people what they want from their service, a strong theme emerges around local presence, availabili­ty and response to community priorities. Demand for a service doesn’t always translate into recorded crime, so attaining a true picture of the work of the service and the shape we need to be in to deliver at present and in the future is a complex jigsaw of many pieces. Policing is a service with many moving parts.

The vision for the future will be ambitious because it has to be; it’s also realistic.We need to consider how the citizen and her or his needs and requiremen­ts are placed at the heart of what we do, the decisions we make and the response provided.

Our workforce needs to be equipped to carry out policing in a world where people who contact public services do so in many different, often digitally-enabled, ways. The needs of one victim of crime or vulnerable individual will vary based on a number of factors and circumstan­ces. Our response has to be tailored to their needs and an assessment of impact and expectatio­n.

Police Scotland handled more than 3.5 million calls through both 101 and 999. This resulted in 1.7 million recorded incidents. In our single busiest day there are more than 9,000 calls to police. Most police time is spent handling the concerns of people, missing people investigat­ions and reports and dealing with sudden deaths. In the course of a single day there are more than 150 entries on to the database which records details of vulnerable people. In an average day there are more than 130 domestic incidents attended to by police. More than 80 people are reported missing on average every day.

In each of those types of scenarios the circumstan­ces that shape our response will be different. It has to be if the effect of policing is to make a difference, provide protection and keep people safe both here and at present and into the future. Malcolm Graham is assistant chief constable, strategic developmen­t, with Police Scotland.

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