Strategic police priorities: Fairer Scotland assessment summary

Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment on the revision of the Strategic Police Priorities for Scotland.

Strategic Police Priorities for Scotland

Summary of aims and expected outcomes of strategy, proposal, programme or policy

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012[1] enables Scottish Ministers to set Strategic Police Priorities, providing high-level direction for the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland. They connect with the Act's statutory policing principles that 'the main purpose of policing is to improve the safety and wellbeing of persons, localities and communities in Scotland'.

The Strategic Police Priorities set the overarching framework for policing in Scotland, reflecting the ambition within the national outcomes and the 'Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities' for a safe, just and resilient Scotland.

These priorities do not address operational police matters, which are the responsibility of the Chief Constable.

The Strategic Police Priorities were last set in October 2016, and we committed within the 2018-19 Programme for Government[2] to review the Strategic Police Priorities (SPPs) in 2019. This review ensures that the police service reflects the changing needs of individuals and communities. Also, the refresh will help to reflect ongoing developments and transformation in the policing system.

Policing is relevant to everyone in Scotland, but particularly for the vulnerable people in our society. The priorities reflect an expectation that the police service should have a positive impact on all individuals and communities.

The final revised SPPs are as follows:

Crime and Security – prioritises prevention, detection, investigation, equality and human rights to support positive criminal justice outcomes; responds to threats, and maintains public order, both locally and nationally.

Confidence – continues to inspire public trust by being ethical, open and transparent; maintains relationships and engages with local communities, to build a positive reputation at a local, national and international level.

Partnerships – works collaboratively to keep communities safe, sharing a collective responsibility to deliver preventative services that improve outcomes for individuals, increase resilience and address vulnerability.

Sustainability – adapts resources and plans for both current and future social, economic and financial circumstances, considering the environmental impact of policing and its operations.

People – values, supports, engages and empowers a diverse workforce to lead and deliver high quality services, with a focus on workforce development and overall wellbeing.

Evidence – uses evidence to innovate and develop services which address the current and emerging needs of individuals and local communities, and ensure that resources, capacity and skills are in the right place to deliver outcomes.

These revised Strategic Police Priorities were developed following a formal public consultation on a draft set of SPPs, and an associated programme of engagement with partners across Scotland.

The SPA and Police Scotland will use these revised SPPs to inform both their Strategic and Annual Police Plans, which will include putting in place objectives for the police service, and the activities which will deliver them.

We expect that these priorities will remain in place for a period of 6 years, with a plan to consult the SPA, Police Scotland and local authorities at the mid-point of 3 years. This will help us to consider whether the SPPs still remain relevant and appropriate.

Summary of evidence

In developing the revised Strategic Police Priorities, we considered a range of evidence on individuals' and communities' expectations and needs in relation to policing. We have drawn this from a range of data sources, including from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, the evaluation of Police and Fire Reform, and responses to our consultation. We have considered issues of socio-economic disadvantage within this data, where possible.

The 2017/18 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) tells us that adults living in the 15% most deprived areas were more likely to have been the victim of crime in the previous 12 months, than those living elsewhere in Scotland (18.0% compared to 11.5%).[3]

There are a number of types of crime which are more likely to affect people living in and/or take place in deprived areas, for example:

  • The likelihood of experiencing violence is higher for those living in deprived areas than it is elsewhere.[4] Also, the likelihood of experiencing violence for people who live in the 15% most deprived neighbourhoods has not shown any reduction since 2008-09, whilst the victimisation rate has fallen for people living in the rest of Scotland.[5]
  • Scotland's 20% most deprived areas accounted for 35% of police recorded robbery in 2017-18.[6]
  • 42% of victims of attempted murder and serious assault in 2017-18 lived in Scotland's 20% most deprived areas.[7]
  • the proportion of adults who have experienced partner abuse is higher in deprived areas compared to the rest of Scotland.[8]

As a result, those living in deprived areas may be disproportionately likely to have contact with or require services provided by the police.

Additionally, the SCJS also provides information on public confidence in and perceptions of the police, with the 2017/18 survey finding that a lower proportion of those in the most deprived areas described the local police's performance as excellent or good compared to adults in the rest of Scotland (53% compared with 58% respectively).[9]

Looking at more specific aspects of policing, the 2017/18 survey also tells us that views were fairly positive amongst population sub-groups across the range of measures examining perceptions of effectiveness, community engagement and fairness included in the SCJS. However, across a selection of these metrics people in the most deprived areas were relatively less likely to hold positive views than those living elsewhere in Scotland.

For example, confidence in the ability of the police amongst those living in the 15% most deprived area was lower in relation to the prevention of crime[10], although there was no difference detected in views on the other five measures exploring confidence in the effectiveness of the police. Views were also less positive in deprived areas in relation to perceptions of relations between the community and the police, and whether the police treat people fairly and with respect. However, across many of these measures perceptions in deprived areas have improved over the last decade since such questions were first included in the survey.[11]

These findings are echoed in the Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform Year 2 case studies, which highlighted that in more deprived areas, public perceptions of officers tended to be more negative while in rural and affluent communities views were more positive.[12]

Turning to other ways of exploring differences amongst population groups, and looking at socio-economic groups (as defined by the Office of National Statistics classification), the 2017/18 SCJS shows that adults who were in the Never Worked (NW) and Long-Term Unemployed (LTUE) category are less likely to have experienced crimes than those in other socio-economic groups.[13]

Those working in Managerial and Professional occupations were more likely to describe the local police's overall performance as excellent or good compared to adults in the other socio-economic categories.[14]

Across a selection of more specific aspects of policing adults in Managerial and Professional occupations were more likely to hold positive views on policing than those in Intermediate, Routine and Manual, and Never Worked and Long-Term Unemployed categories. For example, 59% of respondents belonging to Managerial and Professional occupations were confident in the ability of the local police to prevent crimes, compared to 54% in Routine and Manual work and 50% in both the Intermediate, and NW and LTUE, groups.

In relation to the impact of socio-economic background on employment with the police, Police Scotland do not currently publish information on their workforce relating to their socio-economic background within their Equality and Diversity Mainstreaming and Outcomes Progress Report.

Through the Citizen Space platform, we received 59 written responses to our public consultation. There was no specific mention of deprivation in these responses. However, a focus on flexibility within policing to adapt approaches to local communities and working together with partners and communities were key themes of the consultation.[15]

Overall, the evidence shows that the area you live in and your socio-economic group can have an impact on both your experiences of crime, and also your confidence in the police.

The evidence shows that adults living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are more likely to be victims of crime. The strategic police priority focused on Crime and Security is designed to help ensure the police service continues to prevent and tackle crime, including in areas of deprivation.

The evidence relating to socio-economic groups, however, highlights that those from the Managerial and Professional occupations are more likely to experience crime than those in other socio-economic categories, suggesting that efforts to tackle crime need to be targeted in a balanced and evidence-based way.

There are other SPPs which are particularly relevant - the Confidence priority which includes a focus on building relationships with local communities, and also the Partnership priority which incorporates the police service's responsibility to work collaboratively to deliver preventative services.

The Evidence priority – highlighting the need to use evidence to develop services which meet the emerging needs of individuals and local communities – also highlights the importance of building an understanding of the experiences and needs of different communities in shaping service delivery.

Summary of assessment findings

The Strategic Police Priorities have been developed in a way which aims to embed an inclusiveness within policing, including an ethical and transparent approach to service delivery, and advancing equality and human rights.

In developing the SPPs, the evidence could justify an approach by the police service to target their activities on tackling crime in areas of deprivation. It could also suggest that more needs to be done in building confidence in the police amongst those people living in areas of deprivation, or perhaps with specific socio-economic groups.

We have not, however, targeted specific equality groups or communities of geography or interest due to the strategic level of the priorities. Decisions on how to tackle crime and deliver local policing are operational, and are therefore a matter for Police Scotland - the SPPs intentionally do not set specific objectives for the operation of the service. The impact of the SPPs will be achieved through a 'golden thread' from the priorities through to other planning products in the system – including the Strategic Police Plan, refreshed every three years, and the Annual Police Plans.

Following the consultation, and consideration of wider evidence, changes have been made to the initial draft of the SPPs to emphasise that the police should adapt their approaches to different local communities, and that the service should work closely with delivery partners and communities. The intention behind this is to reflect that different communities can have different needs and expectations from the police service.

Retaining the status quo in terms of the original wording of the SPPs would not have adequately reflected the importance of flexibility within the priorities to enable the development of effective local approaches, and of developing positive community relationships to assist with building confidence in the police service.

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Name: Clare Hicks

Job title: Deputy Director, Police Division



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