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

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Chapter three: The police service in Scotland in 2007-08 and looking ahead

Here we outline some of the significant strategic challenges now confronting the Scottish police service.

Performance management - accountability and continuous improvement

The police service in Scotland, in common with other public sector bodies, must demonstrate that it provides public value. This requires a mutual understanding of what standards of performance should be, and how achievement will be measured. Progress towards this is being made through the formulation of agreed service standards, the Scottish Policing Performance Framework ( SPPF) and self-assessment.

The first annual report of the SPPF is published as a companion document to this report. Introduced in April 2007, the framework is a significant step forward in providing a coherent national model for measuring and reporting on performance. It is intended to help managers internally to deliver more effective policing, while externally improving local and national accountability. The publication of robust and comparable performance information will assist the public, police authorities and boards and Scottish Ministers in understanding policing performance.

The framework is divided into four areas covering the breadth of policing activity:

  • service response;
  • public reassurance & community safety;
  • criminal justice & tackling crime;
  • sound governance & efficiency.

Work to develop the framework is continuing. For example, it is anticipated that the indicators for 2007-08 will be expanded upon and refined where appropriate. Account will also be taken of forces' local indicators - either individually or, where they are sufficiently common across forces, as potential national indicators.

Police leadership

An excellent police service requires excellent leadership. Re-launched in 2007, the ACPOS People Strategy sets out a vision for modernising leadership, people management and people development. Its strategic goals include becoming a more diverse and inclusive employer, supporting police officers and police staff to fulfil their potential, and integrating leadership development across the service. A key principle is ensuring that leadership talent can be recognised, nurtured and developed, whatever an individual's background and at whatever point in their career.

In an effort to standardise this approach and to ensure that the best leaders hold chief officer positions, Scottish Ministers have determined that the Strategic Command Course ( SCC) is now a mandatory qualification for all chief officer appointments. This direction came into effect on 1 January 2008 and allows for common, consistent, transparent standards and processes for appointment to chief officer posts.

Qualification for a place on the SCC is dependent upon successful performance at the Senior Police National Assessment Centre ( S-PNAC) process. Historically, aspiring chief officers in Scotland have not been required to take part in this rigorous, UK-wide selection process.

It is anticipated that new SCC graduates will fill existing and future posts across Scotland. Meantime, I note the extensive practice of non- SCC qualified officers holding temporary chief officer positions on an extended basis within a number of forces. I have expressed concerns about the cumulative impact of long-term temporary appointments on the operational effectiveness of Scottish policing, particularly in relation to handling critical incidents. At the end of 2007-08 almost a third of chief officer posts in Scotland are occupied by individuals who, whatever their merits, have not undergone formal, consistent training in strategic command. While we understand that such appointments are being made in the hope and expectation that temporary post-holders will be successful at S-PNAC in the autumn of 2008, we will continue to monitor the situation.

However, we note and commend recent developments, particularly the newly established Senior Careers Development Service ( SCDS) 8 based at the Scottish Police College. Funded by the Scottish Government and directed by the ACPOS people strategy co-ordinator, the SCDS works closely with the National Policing Improvement Agency ( NPIA) 9 and Hay Group 10 to ensure that potential leaders of the service have access to the necessary information, guidance and skills to assist in their development.

We also look forward to seeing how forces respond to the recommendations of our thematic inspection Selection for promotion in the Scottish police service6 as it is in effective promotion and development practice for junior ranks that our best hope lies for an appropriately skilled cadre of candidates to fill future vacancies at chief officer level.

Police resources, capacity and capability

We live in times where expectations of public focus and accountability are high. Within this context there is the need to ensure that capacity and capability can be achieved across the spectrum of policing demands that the service can expect to face, or require to respond to.

For example the terrorist incidents that occurred in the Central Scotland Police and Strathclyde Police areas last year illustrate the challenge that Scottish forces can face in this respect. Though two quite different incidents, both required a similarly high level of specialist response in dealing with the immediate aftermath and the subsequent investigations. In both instances the investigations ran for some considerable time and in each case the host force required assistance from other UK forces.

Another factor adversely currently affecting police resilience is the peak in the loss of experienced staff - the so-called 'Edmund Davies' effect where the significantly higher number of officers recruited during the 1970s and early 1980s are reaching the end of their service. We raised this issue in 2002 in our thematic inspection Narrowing the gap11. Work is underway to increase recruitment but it is the loss of experience that presents the greatest challenge. It is essential that forces and services continue to work together to ensure that the level and quality of service is not diminished.

The pressing nature of the situation has led to it being taken up by the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, and a subsequent report of their inquiry into the effective use of police resources was published in January of this year. As a result of its findings the Justice Committee recommended a fundamental, independent review of the role and responsibilities of the police highlighting, among other things, a number of areas where improvements could be made in the operation and governance of the police. Subsequently the Cabinet Secretary for Justice asked me to conduct an independent review, which will examine the roles and responsibilities of police services in Scotland with the aim of ensuring:

  • that all Scotland's communities have equal access to expert and specialist policing and to the resources necessary to investigate major crime, whenever they need it;
  • that the delivery of such policing responsibilities does not divert resources away from visible policing in communities;
  • in pursuance of this, identifying policing responsibilities which might more effectively be delivered nationally, regionally, or by collaboration between forces;
  • and to make recommendations for the organisation, governance and accountability that best supports the delivery of those policing responsibilities.

We will submit our report to the Cabinet Secretary by the end of December 2008.

Following the creation in 2007 of the Scottish Police Services Authority ( SPSA) a number of common support functions are now provided to the eight Scottish police forces. It plays an important role in the effectiveness of modern policing by providing criminal records, forensic services, specialist ICT (from 2008), training - including the Scottish Police College - corporate services and specialist officers and staff for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency ( SCDEA). In its first year the SPSA has been subject to much comment and criticism, often without reference to any supporting evidence or statistical data. While it is recognised that implementing significant change can often be a focus of discontent, we support the principles behind the establishment of the SPSA and note that some of the difficulties it is working to address were indeed present when the services it now provides nationally were the responsibility of individual forces. I urge all forces to consider the SPSA a part of, rather than apart from, the police service.

Service Standards

Standards provide a crucial frame of reference for those coming into contact with a service by explaining what users can expect from those providing the service. In addition, the ability of the police service to review itself and to do so against recognised professional standards is central to our new approach to inspection. We therefore consider it essential that the service produce standards for all principal activities and make these publicly available. Doing so will also make it easier for other scrutiny bodies, including police boards and authorities, to assess how well forces are performing. We note that work to determine common standards is being led by ACPOS and we look forward to seeing rapid progress in this area.