The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents an unprecedented public health challenge, and all services are adapting at pace to contribute to the national effort to delay the outbreak and ultimately save lives. Police Scotland is performing an important role in support of the measures to reduce the spread of the infection, as well as continuing to provide a vital policing service to the public.
New police powers have been introduced by the recent legislation in response to COVID-19, which provide the means to enforce the public health measures aimed at saving lives. Police Scotland’s Chief Constable and senior leadership team have been consistent in their public messages, namely that police officers will make every effort to engage effectively with members of public, provide advice and guidance about the new measures, encourage people to comply willingly, and only resort to enforcement when all else fails.
One of the advantages of having a single police service for Scotland is that the leadership direction is consistent across the country, and I am confident that police officers and staff will be working hard to adapt to this fast moving evolving situation in a proportionate way and ethical manner.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) will continue to fulfil its statutory role to provide independent scrutiny of both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) throughout the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as continuing to provide professional advice on policing matters. In particular, we will monitor how Police Scotland exercises the enhanced powers it has been given by recent legislation. To this end, I have had sight of Police Scotland’s strategy and objectives, as well as the guidance and training package on the new measures.
In the fullness of time, there will be value in carrying out a full review of how Police Scotland and the SPA strategic and operational response to the public health crisis and assessing the impact of the experience on future policing approaches, and we will endeavour to gather the necessary information to allow us to do so effectively.
HMICS will continue to liaise regularly with Police Scotland, the SPA, and the Scottish Government during this challenging period.
Gill Imery QPM