Thursday, 28 May 2009

Increase support roles to help police fight crime

Thursday 28 May

Increasing the proportion of ‘civilian’ staff in Scotland’s police forces will mean police officers can concentrate on key policing requiring their specialist skills and experience, says a new report released by police staff union, UNISON, today (Thursday 28th May 2009).

The report highlights the important roles that ‘civilian’ staff (more accurately known as police staffs) carry out within Scotland’s police forces, the variations in numbers employed by different forces, and recommendations for further increases, as well as a potential future for neighbourhood policing in Scotland.

28% of personnel employed by Scotland’s police forces are police staff, carrying out a wide variety of jobs ranging from administration and clerical posts to specialist forensics and IT posts. Increasing numbers of police staff are taking on operational roles in areas such as custody and detention, investigation and surveillance. However there are wide variations of the use of police staffs across Scotland’s police forces; comprising 25% of staff employed in Strathclyde Police but 33% in Dumfries & Galloway.

The research highlights the potential to extend police staff posts. Either by extending police staff use to existing police officer roles (eg dispatcher posts in some forces) or by creating new roles (such as the use of Police Community Support Officers in England & Wales).

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser said:
"This research highlights the need to look at the varying use of police staff across each police force, - Central Scotland for example, employ no police staff in dispatcher posts, whereas Dumfries & Galloway employ only police staff.
"By following the example of those forces who have used police staffs widely, more police officers can concentrate on using their specialist skills and experience to fight crime directly, while police staff can apply their specialist skills to support them."

The report also provides a comparison between Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and community wardens and suggests the possibility of introducing the PCSO to Scotland. PCSOs (not to be confused with Police Custody & Security Officers who are already used in Scottish police forces) would be employed directly by the police and have a wider range of enforcement powers than those available to Community Wardens.

Dave Watson said:
"We suggest a study is needed on the potential to establish Police Community Support Officers in Scottish Police Forces – these would be staff employed by the police and would have a wide range of enforcement powers to help tackle antisocial behaviour and improve neighbourhood policing."


Note for editors:
The report entitled ‘Civilianisation of the Police in Scotland’ was carried out by Stewart Research on behalf of UNISON. It is available on the UNISONScotland website ( ) or from Kenny MacLaren (

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