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Police Scotland diverts resources from digital as officers leave

CC Iain Livingstone has said that resources have needed to be prioritised in light of officers leaving under the pension changes

Speaking at the Scottish Police Authority meeting CC Iain Livingstone said: “In essence there are more officers over 50 leaving at the moment because of these very significant changes about commutation.

“At the same time, we have had the inevitable slowing of recruitment because of Covid and because of demands of COP26.”

The pension changes mean that officers can access an ordinary pension after only 25 years of service, if they are aged 50 or older. The changes only apply to Scotland officers although the PFEW is seeking a similar arrangement for forces in England and Wales.  

The “headline figure” of leavers as a result of the pension changes is 400, although as of April 12, around 1,800 officers had inquired as to what the changes might mean for them individually.

Official figures published at the start of May showed the number of full-time equivalent officers in Police Scotland fell by 312 during the first three months of 2022, reaching the lowest level since 2008.

The decline represented 1.8% of the force’s overall strength, meaning it had 16,805 full-time equivalent police officers as of March 31.

DCC Malcom Graham said: “This headline figure demonstrates there are, for a temporary period, less officers available across the organisation.

“We have become very adept at dynamic resource planning in the face of resource changes through the course of the pandemic.

“We were faced with unprecedented challenges in terms of absence during Covid which way exceeded demands we are facing on a temporary basis for this shortfall.

“We are putting in place special measures again in many ways parallel structures to those we had in place during Covid […] to ensure operational service delivery is prioritised and ensure where vacancies arise we redesign the organisation to ensure operational services in key areas which are most at pressure and where highest risk is carried are resourced.”

He explained that some of the consequences of prioritising things like initial contact means de-prioritising longer-term work, including cyber and digital policing.

“Our intent to go into that area may need to be delayed while we refocus our efforts on ensuring that operational priorities in the areas we understand need to be fully resourced as a priority.

"As we look to ensure frontline policing is prioritised in areas of highest risk, our capacity to push through this [digital] change at the pace we would require is not always resourced at the level we would like."

Police Scotland, which is not part of the Uplift programme, has increased recruitment plans to take on 300 probationary constables each quarter across the next year and a recruitment campaign will be launched in July.

They have plans to increase the capacity of the digital forensics team by nearly 30 people, 20 of which are already in post.

CC Livingstone said that policing was not alone in seeing leavers from the 50-70 age bracket.

He also said that he is keen where possible to support with the provision of mutual aid, highlighting the help the force received during COP26.

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