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Rise in police officers ‘disguises frontline staff taking on admin roles’

MSPs claim a small increase in police officer numbers fails to account for those covering civilian staff duties.

New figures on Police Scotland officer numbers have been published (Andrew Milligan/PA)
New figures on Police Scotland officer numbers have been published (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Opposition politicians claim a small rise in police officer numbers masks frontline staff filling in back office roles.

The latest official statistics on officer numbers rose by six full-time equivalent (FTE) in the final quarter of 2017.

There were 17,256 FTE officers on December 31 2017, no change from the same date from the previous year.

The number of officers has risen by 1,022 (6.3%) FTE since March 2017.

Scottish police officer figures (Scottish Government/PA)

Labour and the Liberal Democrats highlighted concerns about police taking on civilian staff duties.

Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “These statistics only tell half the story. They fail to take into account the fact that police officers are being pulled away from frontline duties to cover a substantial workload previously carried out by civilian staff.

“The Scottish Government need to acknowledge that this is a consequence of their botched centralisation and other policy decisions. Anything else does scant justice to the officers and staff who work so hard on our behalf day in, day out.”

His Scottish Labour equivalent, Daniel Johnson added: “These figures hide a wider problem in our police force.

“A recent survey showed the public feel that the police are less visible in their local communities, particularly as more and more police officers have to perform administrative roles after cuts to backroom staff.

“A small increase in the number of police officers will not fill this void.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police numbers remain high, particularly when compared with a sharp reduction in officer numbers in England and Wales.

“Planning through the Policing 2026 programme will help ensure Scotland continues to benefit from a modern, responsive police service – including the right mix of officers and staff to keep people safe and meet emerging challenges.

“It is for Police Scotland to decide how best to deploy their staff, supported by our protection of Police Scotland’s resource budget in real terms throughout this Parliament – a boost of £100 million by 2021.”

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Our 2026 strategy is about balancing the workforce so we have the right people, with the right skills, working in the right place to keep people safe.

“We will free up officers from back office jobs into operational roles, increase policing productivity and recruit more specialist police staff to work in operational areas.

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