The work undertaken to scrutinise the ever changing policing landscape is detailed in the annual report of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
Derek Penman, HMCICS, also offers an assessment of policing in Scotland and comments on the performance of both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).
Against a background of headlines and political concern, Mr Penman said officers and police staff across the country continue to provide a good service to their communities with the large majority of people who come into contact with the police service being positive about their experience.
He said: “I believe Police Scotland is well served by the many senior officers, team leaders and support staff managers who provide essential day to day leadership across the country. Our ongoing scrutiny shows police officers and staff at all levels remain committed to delivering policing to our communities.”
He welcomes the publication of a number of forward looking strategies that will be essential in delivering the future sustainability of policing in Scotland, but highlights these still remain work in progress.
“Both Police Scotland and the SPA recognise there is a need to provide greater detail around how they will deliver major change and are working to provide more detail on their financial plans in the next few months,” said Mr Penman.
He also welcomes Police Scotland’s commitment towards developing a diverse workforce and agreeing the balance of officers and police staff needed to meet the demands of modern policing. However, he points out that Police Scotland will need to better understand the demand for policing across Scotland to inform future decisions about where officers and police staff should be. Mr Penman has urged Police Scotland and the SPA be allowed to make decisions free of a rigid focus on police numbers.
The recent changes at the top of the SPA should address concerns about transparency and governance, which had been highlighted by Mr Penman in the past and he looks forward to these changes improving the public scrutiny and support of Police Scotland.
“I have been encouraged by the new leadership and their early commitment to work more collaboratively and drive improvement at a pace. I believe it is essential for the success of policing in Scotland for the SPA to establish itself as competent and credible to both support and challenge Police Scotland,” he said.
In what will be his final annual report before he retires next spring, Mr Penman has observed that while crime is at an all time low, its nature is changing with more offences linked to the internet, especially those of a sexual nature and fraud.
“There are important issues around the new types of crime being experienced by communities and how these are currently being reported and recorded by Police Scotland. Improvements in the policing response to victims of cybercrime and better recording practices will inevitably impact on historic reductions in reported crime”, he advised.
Vulnerability and dealing with people in mental health crisis continue to impact on local policing and Mr Penman welcomes the steps taken by Police Scotland to work with health service partners to find the best solutions for the individuals.
The report also signals improvements in local policing, with Mr Penman acknowledging: “The relationships between the local commanders and their local authorities are strong and recent changes in community planning and empowerment are to be welcomed.”
The HMICS scrutiny activities from 2016-17 are detailed within the report.