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HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland: Annual Report (2007/08)

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Chapter one: The role and functions of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland was established in 1858, charged with reporting on the state and efficiency of the Scottish police forces. Its first annual report was published on 15 March 1859. Since then both the role and functions of the police - and the expectations of the public - have changed markedly. However, the role of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary ( HMCIC), together with the Inspectorate's commitment to improving the service provided to the public, remains the same.

Although we describe ourselves as operating independently of police forces, police authorities and the Scottish Government, it is probably more accurate to say that we are neutral. The reasoning behind this is threefold: although not part of Scottish Government, we are funded, and can be directed, by Ministers; though not part of the eight Scottish police forces or other police services, most of our staff are seconded from these organisations; and, while we have no statutory relationship with police authorities other than a duty to inspect Best Value, we do submit copies of our reports to these authorities and expect them to discuss our recommendations with chief constables.

Our main responsibilities are:

  • To scrutinise Scottish policing.
  • To report our findings to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and the public.
  • To provide professional advice on policing and police issues to the police service, to police authorities and to Scottish Ministers.

We carry out our functions by evaluating the product of police forces' and services' self-assessments, conducting thematic inspections examining key areas of policing and considering the policing response to critical incidents.

We work within four main principles:

1. Independence

We are independent of police forces and services, police authorities and police boards and Scottish Ministers. Furthermore, we aim to carry out our duties with professionalism, integrity and courtesy.

2. Openness and Communication

We conduct and publish 2 our activities openly, expecting and encouraging similar, appropriate openness from police forces and services.

3. Lay Involvement

To enhance our objectivity and to bring a wider public or external voice into our scrutiny, we consider how to include a lay element in our inspections on a case-by-case basis. Often this will be in the form of an individual who can bring to bear particular experience, expertise or other professional insight.

4. Continuous Improvement

Through our work we seek to identify, contribute to, and promulgate good practice throughout the service, in addition to highlighting areas of performance that need to be addressed. We also apply this principle internally to our own work practices. For example, we regularly review our inspection process to ensure that what we do remains fit for purpose and adds value to policing.

Our staff 3

HMICS comprises a small team of permanent staff in addition to a number of seconded senior police officers and police staff. Research, support and administrative functions are provided by permanent staff who are civil servants employed by the Scottish Government. Our police officers and staff are drawn from a number of UK police forces and bring a wide variety of personal and professional experience to support our work. These seconded members of staff normally serve with us for around two years, thus ensuring that our operational knowledge remains current.

For our thematic inspections we encourage additional police officers and police staff to join us on shorter-term secondments. We benefit from the additional expertise that these individuals bring and their involvement extends awareness of the inspection process in the wider service. This year we extended the practice further by seconding staff with specialist expertise from non-police organisations, for example the Royal Bank of Scotland, to work on very technical or emerging areas. We are grateful for the continuing support of police forces, services and other organisations in this respect.