Police Scotland has announced the introduction of a “simple officer verification process” in light of the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.
The force said the move aims to provide reassurance to any member of the public who may be concerned about whether or not they are being spoken to by a genuine police officer working alone.
Although police officers normally work in pairs in Scotland, on-duty officers operating on their own will now proactively offer to carry out a verification check for anyone they come across who appears to be concerned for their safety.
A member of the public can also request that a verification check be done.
The new process, introduced on Saturday, will allow for the officer’s personal radio to be put on loudspeaker and for an officer or member of staff in a Police Scotland control room to confirm that the officer is who they say they are, that they are on duty and the reason the officer is speaking to the member of the public.
The control room will then create an incident number which can be displayed on the officer’s mobile phone or radio to confirm the broadcast message details.
In the even rarer situation where a lone off-duty officer has to become involved in an incident, the officer will call 999 and allow the member of the public to speak to the control room on the phone.
Uniformed colleagues will also be dispatched as quickly as possible.
Deputy chief constable Will Kerr said: “Our officers work, on a daily basis and across every community in Scotland, with absolute professionalism to protect the vulnerable and keep people safe in line with our core values of integrity, fairness and respect and a commitment to upholding human rights.
“Public confidence and consent is critical to our legitimacy, and our ability to keep our communities and citizens safe.
“The appalling circumstances of Sarah Everard’s murder have deeply affected people and many are now understandably concerned about verifying an officer’s identity.
“Police officers will, of course, continue to approach any member of the public who appears distressed or vulnerable, to offer support and assistance.
“However, although it is rare for a lone police officer to have to speak to a member of the public in Scotland, we absolutely recognise our responsibility to introduce an additional means of verification to provide further reassurance to anyone, in particular women who may feel vulnerable, and who might be concerned if they find themselves in this situation.
“The onus is on us, as a police service, to proactively offer this additional verification process to any member of the public who appears distressed, vulnerable or frightened.
“Police officers always carry photographic identification and will be happy to provide further reassurance about who they are and their reason for speaking with someone if requested.”
Wayne Couzens will die behind bars for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard.
The ex-PC, 48, was handed a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey on Thursday by Lord Justice Fulford, who said his “warped, selfish and brutal” offences had eroded confidence in the police.
The judge said he had been planning for at least a month before abducting Ms Everard, 33, as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
Metropolitan Police firearms officer Couzens, who had been “hunting” for a victim, used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the marketing executive off the street using Covid lockdown rules to make a false arrest.
Lord Justice Fulford said the case in which a serving officer abused his position was so exceptional it warranted a whole life order, meaning Couzens will never be freed.