Three police forces - Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, and Central - have this week proposed swingeing service cuts by removing hundreds of staff jobs as well as slashing the number of front line police officers.
Whilst the budget cuts are real, I suspect some Chief Constables are exploiting their limited powers to cut police officers, in order to return to a 1970's police force, before the widespread introduction of civilianisation. They argue that police officers are more flexible because they can be deployed anywhere. This is simply lazy management. Police officers are not trained to carry out the range of specialist tasks in a modern force. In addition this 'flexibility' comes at a price. Taking trained operational police officers off our streets to perform administrative tasks, at greater cost, is economic madness.
Imagine an engineering team in a construction company. Of course it is more 'flexible' if the whole team are Chartered Engineers. But no company could run a business like that. So they have a balance between engineers, technicians and support staff. Every modern organisation understands this - except it would seem some (but in fairness not all) Chief Constables.
Police staff are a vital part of modern effective policing. Scotland has made progress in "police civilianisation" in recent years but still has some way to go to catch up with the situation in England and Wales. UNISON Scotland's Briefing on Police Civilianisation in Scotland shows that Police staffs comprise 28% of all police personnel in Scotland. In comparison, the figure for England & Wales is 32%. Strathclyde Police is having to make the biggest cuts, partly because it has been the slowest to modernise.
We need our police staff to keep the uniformed officer on the front line - where the public want them to be.