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Date Thurs 14 July 2011

'Focus on cutting crime, not police staff' says UNISON in response to new report

A new police report issued today (Thursday) has warned that cutting police staff will lead to a cut in frontline policing. The Audit Scotland report talks of ‘reverse civilianisation’ where officers will be taken off the streets to carry out the work of police support staff – a process UNISON says has been happening for months.

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union representing police support staff, says it’s time the Scottish Government took heed of these warnings and focused on cutting crime, not police staff.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish organiser, said: “This report warns that cutting police staff will result in ‘reverse civilianisation’, where police will be taken off the streets to carry out the work of police support staff. The fact is, this has been happening across our forces for months, with officers carrying out jobs they are not trained to do and at a huge additional cost to the taxpayer.

“The Scottish Government claims it is protecting frontline policing by recruiting 1,000 extra police officers, but this is nothing more than a cosmetic political exercise. The truth is that police staff are being cut and police resources are being diverted away from frontline policing to plug the staffing gap.

“The public need to know how vital police staff roles are and the huge danger of cutting these jobs. It’s time the government focussed on cutting crime, not police staff.”

UNISON’s concerns were shared by Labour’s deputy justice spokesman, James Kelly, who today highlighted Lothian and Borders Police plans to cut 36 support staff in order to artificially maintain officer numbers in line with SNP targets.

This is one of the most recent examples of reverse civilianisation, as the force plans to backfill these posts with police officers. The Labour MSP has now urged the Scottish Government to come clean on how many of the 1,000 additional officers that have been recruited would spend their days behind a desk performing civilian tasks.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The report can be viewed online at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/docs/AC.2011.6.9-Strathclyde_police_BV.pdf Paragraph 85 of the report states: "While police officer numbers are currently stable there is a potential impact on their duties given the possibility of reductions in the number of police staff employed. Police officers may be required to cover roles previously undertaken by police staff in areas such as custody suites, enquiry offices and force control rooms. This potential for ‘reverse civilianisation’ could divert resources away from front-line policing."

Police support staff work in a variety of rolls from 999 call handler to forensic technicians and detention officers to crime and incident advisors – all play a vital role in cutting crime.

For more information contact Trisha Hamilton, communications officer, on 07939 478 461 or Dave Watson, Scottish organiser, on 07958 122 409. Or visit our website at www.unison-scotland.org.uk

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