Publication - Research publication

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1: Annex 1: Evidence Review

Published: 27 Jun 2016

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1 Annex 1

74 page PDF

1.3 MB

74 page PDF

1.3 MB

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1: Annex 1: Evidence Review
4. Reform aim 2: To create more equal access to specialist support and national capacity - like murder investigation teams, firearms teams or flood rescue - where and when they are needed

74 page PDF

1.3 MB

4. Reform aim 2: To create more equal access to specialist support and national capacity - like murder investigation teams, firearms teams or flood rescue - where and when they are needed


Police Scotland's Post Implementation Benefits Review work concludes that the 'Operational Benefit' relating to this aim has been met. HMICS Local Policing+ reports also identify that there is increased ease of access to national resources. The specific evidence on which these claims are based, however, is not always clear.

In the case of Fire and Rescue, work by HMFSI and SFRS has established a detailed knowledge of geographical variations in equipment, capacity and skills and progress is reported to be made in addressing these regional variations.

In relation to Police Scotland, the evidence base is most extensive around process-based and transactional issues relating to the functioning of the new arrangements. For Fire and Rescue, there is strong evidence of detailed consideration of variations in baseline resources and risk profiles in preparation for a more strategic approach to distributing specialist resources.

For both services, the evidence is more limited in relation to outputs and outcomes; causal connections and inter-dependencies when evidencing progress toward this aim are not always clear; and other 'voices' within the services and communities about the impacts and implications of activities undertaken in relation to this aim need to be heard.

The evidence base regarding this aim is concentrated in less diverse documents than is the case for Aims (1) or (3).

The evidence is generally of good quality: it involves a degree of methodological rigour, is accessible and relevant, and is analytically robust.

Subsequent stages of this evaluation will focus on some of these evidence gaps - in particular, around perceptions of how far this aim has been achieved (and experiences of this); and understanding causal connections between service reconfiguration and specific outcomes.

4.1 Overview

With regard to Policing the evidence relating to access to specialist expertise is largely contained within 3 broad areas: The Post-Implementation Benefits Review work; the local Policing inspections carried out by HMICS; and the analysis of armed Policing carried out by the SPA as part of its scrutiny report. In terms of the Fire and Rescue service, the key documents include HMFSI's report regarding Equal Access to National Capacity; SFRS' Review of Specialist Equipment; SFRS' Benefits realisation and service transformation reports; and the Audit Scotland SFRS report.

For both services, the process evidence is very detailed and provides important insights into the establishment and functioning of new arrangements for accessing specialist expertise. In terms of evidence quality, a similar judgement can be made to that for Aim 1. The gathering of evidence generally displays a degree of methodological rigour, and the information is accessible and relevant, and is analytically robust. In terms of independence, the work undertaken by Audit Scotland is the main piece of work which meets this criteria. Where there are gaps in the evidence these relate to the outcomes of these new arrangements, particularly in relation to understanding causal connections and any unanticipated consequences.

4.2 Police

Within the work carried out as part of their analysis of the post-implementation benefits of Police reform, Police Scotland locate the role of reform in creating more equal access to specialist expertise at the end point of a chain of benefits beginning with Operational Benefit 5 of Nationally Consistent and Equitable Access. This is positioned as the main contributor to Intermediate Benefit 5 (Improved Delivery of Specialist Resources) and End Benefit 2 (Improved Access to Policing services). By 2015 Operational Benefit 5 was judged to be realised and Intermediate Benefit 5 partially realised (with a forecast date of completion being Q4 2015-2016). The evidence supporting these claims rests on 4 measures:

1. Equity of access to specialist resources and frequency of deployment based on demand: pre-reform it is reported that there was no formal process for requesting specialist units form other forces and cross-charging meant the demand was suppressed. Now there is a clearer process with resources available via both the Operational Support Division ( OSD which includes air support, marine unit, dogs and horses, and Firearms) and the Specialist Crime Division ( SCD). There are Major Investigation Teams ( MITs) for the North, East and West area which focus on homicide and other serious crime. In terms of evidence of outcomes, the report notes 'Anecdotal evidence from divisions indicates there these new national arrangements work very well'.

2. Accessibility within divisions to specialist resources and prioritisation of requests: under Police Scotland, specialists are now located within each division to support local Policing (e.g. divisional road Policing units, the Operational Support Division and the Specialist Crime Division). However, there is acknowledgment of a potential disbenefit of this, with some staff perhaps unable to get access to resources and same level of service as under previous arrangements. This is to be addressed by careful logging of supported and unsupported requests with reasons for decisions.

3. Introduction of national standard processes, procedures and Polices: beneath this measure, it is noted that 7000 pre-existing forms have now been reduced to 400 as an indicator of a more consistent approach;

4. National overview of coordination of specialist resources: in the case of this measure, the report highlights that now resources can be requested from adjacent divisions, no cross charging occurs, and there are directories of dedicated and non-dedicated specialists (Police Scotland 2014a).

The local Policing reports undertaken by HMICS provide a more detailed account of the experience of this aspect of reform at local levels in Fife, Ayrshire, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. In Fife it was identified that 'Support from the SCD was described as good, especially in relation to the investigation of homicide', allowing the division to carry on normal business without further abstractions of local detective officers. 'Deployments of this nature are provided in all cases of homicide… and are a tangible example of where Police reform and the move to a single force has delivered more equal access to specialist support and national capacity'. But the report also noted that some staff had identified potential gaps in the provision of support for significant non-homicide investigations (e.g. abduction, rape, long-term missing persons). In reflecting on this, HMICS note that SCD had a process for considering requests through Tasking and Coordinating meetings. In relation to operational support available via OSD specialist resources (such as road Policing, air support, dogs, horses and specialist search teams), Fife division was found to have made good use of these. While the process of accessing these resources was viewed as straightforward, the HMICS report found some ambiguity in relation to responsibility for debriefing specialist staff and evaluating the contribution of specialist officers ( HMICS 2014a). This is viewed as a responsibility of the host division and there is a concern 'that intelligence and performance monitoring opportunities are being missed by not formally debriefing officers following their deployment in the division ( HMICS 2014a: Para 85 and recommendation 5).

Evidence is less detailed in the case of Ayrshire ( HMICS 2015e), whilst the local inspection of Aberdeen includes a thematic focus on missing person investigations and therefore provides evidence of how specialist resources are being used locally. Those involved with the inspection interviewed officers within specialist divisions including SCD, OSD, C3 and the National Missing Persons Unit. It was observed that 'From these various sessions we gathered evidence of more equal access to specialist national resources through the capacity that arises from a single national force with unified command structures'. In the section on 'National support for local search' they use a case study of a high-risk missing person to illustrate where specialist assets were deployed to assist local Policing, highlighting the difference with pre-reform arrangements when Grampian did not have VR dogs or air support and would have relied on mutual aid. Data is also presented showing number of missing persons searches by OSD function for period 2014/15 (up to 28/2/15) which shows the dog section was called on over 3000 times, OSU over 600, air support over 400 and dive and marine unit over 100. Their conclusion in terms of delivering the benefits of reform is that there 'is more equal access to national support and capacity around search and investigation' ( HMICS 2015d).

A more critical view of the impact of creating specialist capacity emerges, however, in the Edinburgh local inspection. The report highlights concerns that staff abstractions to perform more specialist role are posing challenges in meeting local demand and that 'while the impact of creating specialist national, regional and local units has been experienced by many divisions across Scotland, we [ HMICS] are of the view that Edinburgh experienced a greater impact due to the levels of legacy local Policing resources inherited by Police Scotland' ( HMICS 2015a).

One other specific piece of evidence relating to access to specialist expertise is the SPA's inquiry into the standing authority regarding firearms ( SPA 2015). The issues of equal access to specialist support are viewed as being of particular relevance to the Inquiry. By introducing a Standing Authority for the issue and carriage of firearms this enabled ARV officers to carry side arms and Tasers overtly and allowed these officers to respond to routine calls and incidents (for which a firearms response was not required). In many parts of the country this represented a significant change in Policing style. Drawing on evidence from a national public attitudes survey, a series of public evidence sessions and a call for written evidence, the Inquiry came to a number of important conclusions relevant to this aim of reform:

  • While maximising the use of available resources is an important principle and aim of reform, Police Scotland underestimated the community impact of armed officers being sent to routine calls which represented a significant change in approach in some areas and required better explanation and assessment of the community impact.
  • The decision to adopt a nationally consistent approach to the deployment of specialist Firearms officers had an uneven impact on levels of trust and confidence in Police Scotland: most people surveyed were content with the decision, but 1 in 5 said it had a negative impact on their trust and confidence.

4.3 Fire and Rescue

HMFSI's 2014 report on Equal Access to National Capacity focuses on resources and activities in 4 areas of Scotland in order to assess the 'scale and nature of the inherited variation' which will impact on the ability to deliver a consistent level of service for areas with similar risk profiles ( HMFSI 2014). The report tests the assumption that there are significant variations in resources across the country that are not simply a reflection of differences in risk. The key findings from the report relate both to national level issues and the case study specific concerns. At a national level the report highlights concerns about general resourcing in terms of:

  • Sustainability of the Retained Duty System and volunteer units;
  • The condition and age profile of Personal Protective Equipment;
  • The future delivery of training.

In relation to more local issues, the key findings included:

  • Variation in capacity and levels of service provisions was less than expected;
  • Historical differences in the level of training officer support to RDS and volunteer staff between areas;
  • There are local differences in the skill maintenance programmes for RDS crews compared with whole time Firefighters;
  • Historically there have been local differences in the level of home Fire safety visit activity which would make the introduction of national targets problematic;
  • The availability of operational guidance varies between local areas.

In January 2015, SFRS published its Specialist Resources Review ( SFRS 2015b). This found evidence that the inherited position does not meet the aims of a single service. A number of stations are overburdened with equipment and capabilities for which crew competency could be called into question given the disparity between training time and needs. Additionally the range of equipment is not standard across Scotland, and in some regards fall short of what is necessary to provide a satisfactory level of service delivery. Resources are also not strategically situated, based on legacy boundaries and available accommodation within those ahistorical boundaries' ( SFRS 2015b). The report's recommendations are set out by resource and include Water Rescue, Marine Firefighting, Line Rescue, High Reach, Rescue Pumps, Mass Decontamination, and Urban Search and Rescue. The report also notes that implementation is dependent on the service's ability to deliver training to crews. The delivery timescale for change is 3 years. Although the review focuses on an operational matter an extensive process of engagement is reported, with local authorities and other stakeholders.

In relation to SFRS' Service Transformation Programme, at the end of 2014 it is identified that six of the projects that have closed to date have contributed to the second aim of reform (see also figure 9):

  • Enhancement of community safety resources and supporting mechanisms to areas of Scotland with limited capacity;
  • Delivery of a specialist Fire investigation team for each service delivery area;
  • Enhancement of Fire safety enforcement, Fire engineering resources and supporting mechanisms to areas of Scotland with limited capacity;
  • Development of a national data base that ensures all Fire control rooms have live information on the location and skill set of flexi-duty managers to support local and national mobilisation;
  • Agreement of national mobilising arrangements based on best practice as determined by sector experts;
  • Provision of a common mapping platform for control rooms that supports the mobilisation at a national and local level for the full range of resources available to the SFRS ( SFRS 2015c).

Figure 9: Projects mapped and completed as of 31st December 2014 as part of SFRS Benefits Realisation programme relating to Aim 2 of reform ( SFRS 2015c).

Figure 9: Projects mapped and completed as of 31st December 2014 as part of SFRS Benefits Realisation programme relating to Aim 2 of reform (SFRS 2015c).

As earlier stated, updates continue to be routinely produced for SFRS' Service Transformation Committee, regarding progress towards completion of the various projects (including additional projects opened in the course of the programme) ( SFRS nd (a)). Again, we understand this information is available on internal systems and that a publically available document will be produced in the summer of 2016 which will specifically align projects to the aims of reform in a similar way, which we look forward to including in future evidence reviews.

Audit Scotland (2015a) highlight how a 2013 overview report of the 8 former services identified marked differences in resources but that SFRS are beginning to eliminate these differences - for example by deploying standardised breathing apparatus for all Firefighters. They also note the challenge around different risk profiles (for example, Road Traffic Collisions are higher in rural areas per head of population compared with urban areas but dwelling Fires show the inverse of this pattern). Further, the report also highlights that SFRS is examining how some of its specialist expertise can be used in new ways. One specific example is in relation to the Scottish Government's Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest ( OHCA) Strategy where the SFRS will use its network of stations as locations for training in CPR and locate its defibrillators where they can add most value.

The most recent HMFSI report, undertaken in East Renfrewshire, also addresses a number of issues pertinent to this theme, in part as a function of this particular area's relatively small geographical size. It notes that 'the Service has a long-standing positive working relationship with the local authority and other local partners', and that 'as a result of its position in the central belt, there are large numbers of resources available from neighbouring areas in the event of significant incidents taking place within East Renfrewshire' and 'there are sufficient specialist resources available from neighbouring areas' ( HMFSI 2015b).

4.4 Summary and implications

There appears relatively strong evidence of engagement with and progress towards Aim 2. Evidence comes from a range of different organisational sources. These include internal analysis from Police Scotland or SFRS (through the Post Implementation Benefits Review and Specialist Resources Review, for example); the respective inspectorates and organisations 'external' to Police or Fire and Rescue, such as Audit Scotland. In relation to the Police, there is strong process-based and transactional evidence and evidence relating to the functioning of the new arrangements. In Fire there is strong evidence of detailed consideration of variations in baseline resources and risk profiles in preparation for a more strategic approach to distributing specialist resources.

In terms of evidence gaps across both Police and Fire and Rescue, evidence appears more limited in relation to outputs and outcomes. There is some case study evidence but this tends to be high level and could be stronger in terms of analytical rigour. Closer examination of the causal connections and inter-dependencies would also be beneficial when considering activity underpinning work relating to this strategic aim. Consideration of the unintended consequences of the increased use of specialist units would also be useful, particularly if this is seen as diluting local expertise and reducing the pool of experienced personnel working at a local level. Finally, it appears that other 'voices' need to be heard both within the services and within communities about the impacts and implications of recent developments in relation to accessing specialist expertise. This would help move from evidencing 'outputs' and 'process' to 'outcomes' and 'impact' across a wider spectrum of stakeholders.

When considering implications for the evaluation, it is possible our future work may seek to address evidence gaps at national and local levels around (internal and external) perceptions of the outcomes associated with changes to specialist services. Evidence gaps in relation to the causal connections between service reconfiguration and specific outcomes are also likely to be of interest when considering how far aims of reform have been met.