BBC Scotland and our ‘newspapers’ have dropped their attacks on NHS Scotland today and shifted to their other proxy war tactic of getting at the SNP via Police Scotland. This morning we heard of a ‘special investigation’ which will be reported more fully tonight as ‘BBC Scotland Investigates: A Force in Crisis’. Note the lack of speech or question marks in the title – guilty as charged?
Now, I have no doubt there will have been unacceptable behaviour by some officers, at some time, and that full transparency is desirable but it’s important to note that what we are hearing is an attempt to amplify the frequency and level of deviance so as to create a panic about the system as a whole. The resulting panic is then a useful addition to a strategy of attacking the independence movement indirectly by creating a climate of anxiety about aspects of Scottish society where blame can be attributed to actions by the SNP or to the possible consequences of being independent. This process of deviance amplification is generated by groups, ‘moral guardians’, who seek to benefit from public perceptions of a crisis – the Unionist parties and their media partners – when there is, actually, a less dramatic and less concerning environment experienced, day-to-day, by citizens.
There are three main criticisms of the media coverage of Police Scotland. First, not enough attention is given to the fact that the misbehaviour reported is historical, prior to 2014, and was, in most cases, the responsibility of the ‘legacy forces’ such as Strathclyde Police, which at the political level, were the responsibility of Labour-appointed officials.
Secondly, not enough attention has been given to Police Scotland’s actions, since then, to address their concerns. The public, I suspect I would want to know what the situation is in 2018, four or more years later.
Third, in accusing a force of being in crisis, the coverage must be broad enough to include the wider range of Police Scotland performance. Here is evidence to suggest that far from being in crisis, police Scotland is actually performing relatively well. See this comparative evidence, first on staffing:
‘Meanwhile, official figures show that the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 930 in the past 12 months, to 121 929, the lowest level since comparable records began in 1996. Police officer numbers are now 22 424 below their peak in 2009, when there were 144 353 officers.’
‘As at 30 June 2017, there were 17 249 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland. This is an increase of 1 015 police officers from the position at 31 March 2007 (+6.3 per cent). Police officer numbers have decreased by 7 FTE officers in the last quarter, since 31 March 2017, and increased by 7 FTE officers in the last year since 30 June 2016.’
What do these figures mean in terms of the ratio of police officers to members of the public? See this:
Population England and Wales is 56 million
Number of police officers in 2017 was 121 929
Population Scotland is 5.3 million
Number of police officers in 2017 was 17 249
Ratio of population to officers England and Wales: 459/1
Ratio of population to officers Scotland: 307/1
So, Scotland has a much better ratio of police officers to members of the public and thus presumably presence on the streets.
Second, what about performance in terms of the level of crime during the years since the merger of forces?
‘The number of crimes recorded by police has also fallen by more than a third over the last decade.’
Isn’t this a hugely important consideration? Police Scotland with SNP Government funding has maintained its staffing as crime falls and Policing in England has seen a massive decline in staffing, under Theresa as Home Secretary, as murder in London surpasses that in New York:
I’m not saying the cases of spying and the instability in the top post don’t matter but they and the cases of failure, in two specific cases, matter much less than the overall performance of the force as evidenced in crime levels experienced by millions of citizens. Looking at the graph, above, we see crime continue to fall fast after the creation of Police Scotland. This is not evidence of a ‘crisis-hit’ service.
Third, back in October 2017, I was able to report on Police Scotland officers demonstrating how to defuse dangerous situations with a knife-holding person. I was impressed. It was clear that the NYPD officers would have shot the offender in every case. I felt relieved and proud of these Scottish officers. See this for more:
More recently, we read that the London Metropolitan chief was to visit Scotland in the wake of a series of stabbings and murders in the city over the last year or so in the hope of learning how we have managed to reduce knife crime and knife possession dramatically in the last ten years.
Only the Guardian seemed to report the story. I could find no mention in Herald, Scotsman, or Record, nothing on the BBC Scotland and STV websites. Here’s what the Guardian had to say:
‘Met chief, Cressida Dick, will visit Glasgow on Friday to learn more about Police Scotland’s pioneering work on tackling knife crime in the city once known as the stabbing capital of Europe. Dick told the London assembly at the beginning of January that it was time to treat knife crime as a public health crisis, an approach credited with dramatically reducing deaths in Scotland, which little more than a decade ago had the second highest murder rate in western Europe. Of the 39 children and young people killed with knives in the UK last year, not one was in Scotland. The Violence Reduction Unit was set up in 2005 to tackle Glasgow’s deeply rooted blade culture that had barely moved on since the Gorbals gangland was immortalised in the 1935 novel No Mean City. Since then all knife crime rates have been incrementally reduced. Assaults involving knives had fallen by a third by 2012 and there was a 69% drop in recorded incidents of people carrying knives by 2016, according to Police Scotland figures.’
Again, I’m not excusing unacceptable behaviour by some in Police Scotland, at some time in the past, but I am pointing to an organisation’s wider performance and arguing strongly that this could only be seen as evidence of a crisis where those reporting are themselves in a moral crisis of journalistic standards which can be reasonably blamed on an anti-SNP agenda at editorial level.