Wed 16 May 2012
Survey by UNISON indicates half of extra officers are covering non-operational duties
Up to half of the 1000 extra police recruited by the Scottish Government are spending some or all of their time doing the work previously carried out by police staffs who have been made redundant. That’s the result of a survey by UNISON, the union representing police staffs ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on policing.
Police forces across Scotland have been trying to make savings. As the Scottish Government has an arbitrary target to maintain police officer numbers at 17234, the focus of the savings are concentrated on police staffs. This has resulted in over 1000 police staff posts being lost. As a consequence police officers are taking on the work of police staffs.
Police staffs operate in corporate and support roles in functions such as intelligence, information technology, control rooms, station assistants, forensics and human resources. They also take on operational roles in areas such as custody and detention, financial investigation and scenes of crime.
It is very difficult to precisely specify the amount of job substitution because most of the duties are spread among a larger group of police officers who often spend only part of their time undertaking these duties. To get a better picture UNISON Scotland undertook a survey of a random sample of UNISON members employed in police boards in Scotland.
This survey shows that around 53% of the 1000 police staff posts which have already gone are being covered in part or in full by police officers. That means around 500 police officers are now not out on the street fighting crime for part of the time they used to be.
If this was applied to the future staffing plan it would suggest up to 2,000 officers could, at least in part, be taken off operational duties. UNISON accepts that extrapolation from survey data is not a precise calculation. But it does give an indication of the scale of loss – one police officer lost in this way would be too many. And remember - we already have hundreds of police officers undertaking roles that elsewhere in the UK would be done more efficiently by police staffs.
George McIrvine, Chair of UNISON Scotland’s Police Staffs Committee said:
“People expect police to be out on the beat - not doing jobs that, quite frankly, other people are better qualified for. It’s also pretty galling for staff to see people made redundant to save money being replaced by uniformed Officers earning nearly double the wages of those who’ve gone out the door."
UNISON Scotland Head of Bargaining and Campaigns Dave Watson said:
“The fixation on maintaining numbers of uniformed officers while slashing budgets everywhere else wastes money and does nothing to keep people safe. Scottish police forces are already less specialised with lower levels of civilianisation than those in England. If current trends are carried on into the proposed single police force we will see anything up to 2000 police officers spending some or all of their time off operational duties. It’s the wrong approach in terms of public safety - and makes no sense economically”