Police strategy must not sideline Borders

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A plan to improve the effectiveness of Police Scotland as it adapts to the age of cyber crime must take account of the policing needs of rural areas like the Borders.

That is the message sent last week by Scottish Borders Council after discussing a draft 10-year strategy, drawn up by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority which holds it to account. Central to that blueprint is the need to “adapt and transform to meet the needs of a changing society in which the rise and use of the internet has led to news ways of offending”.

The strategy stresses the importance of “prioritising preventative measures and working with other partners, particularly local authorities” and emphasises the need for Police Scotland to work “within available funding”.

SBC responded: “Rural communities and small towns can have different priorities compared to more urban areas. There is a need to empower local police to operate much more flexibly to deal with local priorities focusing on early intervention and prevention.

“To achieve the better outcomes expected in the strategy, additional resources will have to be committed to partners, particularly local authorities. No consideration is given in the strategy to how partners will find the resources for this. The strategy needs to give more detail on how financial stability and sustainability for the police service going forward will be achieved. The technology envisaged to deliver the transformation does not substitute for face-to-face and community contacts which are vital for public confidence. This is particularly important in rural areas with more spread out communities and a more ageing population.”

Councillor Euan Robson said: “There’s nothing about counter services after the disastrous closures across the south of Scotland; there’s nothing about the loss of local control rooms replaced by call centres. There’s also nothing about the reduction in civilian staffing which keeps police officers in front of paperwork rather than in front of the public. We are also right to point out how incoherent the financial situation remains for the police.”

However, at the suggestion of Councillor Heather Anderson, the council included “words of praise” for Police Scotland.

She said: “While fully supporting the emphasis we are placing on increasing flexibility to deal with local priorities, I want to take the opportunity to applaud the achievements of the new national force.”