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