Scotland’s new chief constable has urged the Scottish Government to invest £128m so she can recruit 1,100 more officers over the next two years.
Jo Farrell outlined her plans at her first Scottish Police Authority Board meeting on Thursday.
Police Scotland has warned it could be forced to make voluntary redundancies as the force faces having to cut 800 officers and staff by April 2024 – with the prospect that overall numbers could fall by more than 2,000 over the next four years if budgets are not increased.
The chief also reiterated her apology over an “error of judgement” after she called a Police Scotland car to drive her 120 miles home to England during Storm Babet.
“I would also publicly repeat an apology for an error in judgment during this time,” she said.
“The train service I was due to take after work was cancelled. With my usual police vehicle unavailable, I asked my office to arrange for a car to drive me home to the Northumberland area.
“A colleague who had been visiting Police Scotland was also driven home in the same police vehicle. Having a road policing vehicle, redirected to carry out this journey, in those circumstances, was an error of judgment.
“I apologise unreservedly to my colleagues, to the authority and to the public.”
Chief constable Farrell said the establishment of Police Scotland had saved the public purse £200m every year compared to the previous setup.
“Reform of policing represented an innovative, ambitious and optimistic response to austerity and Police Scotland is now a national asset known for compassion and high standards,” she said.
“A changing, ageing population; a cost of living crisis driving vulnerability and pressure on other services; civil unrest; new laws and increasingly complex investigations all contribute to growing community need and increasing contacts to policing from the public.”
The chief constable said £128m including an uplift to capital funding would restart officer recruitment for the year ahead; fund the cost of this year’s 7% pay award for officers and staff and make a credible offer next year; enable a programme of voluntary retirement and redundancy.
CC Farrell said: “Without funding over and above flat cash, we will be unable to recruit police officers in 2024-25.
“My experience in England is that would significantly impact community policing and proactivity like drugs raids.”
CC Farrell also said officers must spend less time on mental health calls; in accident and emergency and attending court for trials that don’t happen.
She said: “Policing is determined to play our part in criminal justice reform – to make efficiencies, but more importantly deliver better service for the people we serve.
“We will make appropriate use of direct measures at the lowest end of offending so the entire system can focus on delivering justice in the more serious cases.
“We will work with the Scottish Government and the Crown Office to capture digital evidence, including on body worn video, and share the evidence to support better and quicker court outcomes.
“At the same time, policing must redefine our responsibilities around mental health.
“We must respond to people in crises but policing is not the best agency to provide people living with poor mental health with all the care and support they need and deserve.
“Officers should not routinely be performing welfare checks or sitting in hospital waiting rooms for lengthy periods of time.”
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