DETECTIVES will have to justify spending on lengthy investigations under tough new plans proposed for the single Scottish force.
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA), following concerns some investigations are failing to meet “value for money” tests, says it will have more power to scrutinise police spending.
Challenging the decisions of police commanders is likely to increase tensions between the force and the SPA.
The SPA and Police Scotland had a very public fall out in November when it emerged both sides had taken legal advice in a squabble over responsibilities.
The chief constable of the new force and the chairman of the SPA were told in January to stop “empire building” over their new roles.
The new single Scottish Police force, Police Scotland, will start on 1 April.
Ian Whyte, chairman of the Lothian and Borders joint police board and an SPA member, said they would not be telling officers who to arrest but police would not be given a blank cheque for long-running investigations.
He said: “We want to be able to say ‘Yesterday you charged over there and started a murder investigation, pulled in all these resources. Did you need to do that?
“Or was there a different method that would be more effective?’
“Other than that, you should not tell them [officers] who to arrest.
“There aren’t any no-go areas when assessing best value. We will look to use scrutiny in a much broader sense.
“It’s not about second-guessing them, it’s about making sure they are making the right decisions.”
He continued: “As we have seen recently from the NHS recently, those a the operational frontline in all our major public services really need to shift culture.
“Being questioned isn’t an attack on your integrity.
“It is part of the checks and balances of public life.”
He said the new SPA board “will have more power to oversee best value.
“If it’s about how many officers they’ve got patrolling a certain area, or how many officers they send to a particular type of crime, we need to show evidence that it is achieving better outcomes for the public.”
A spokesman for the Association of Scottish Police superintendents said senior officers took decisions in order to protect the public, keep the peace and comply with the law.
He said: “Fundamentally their decisions are driven by the key purpose of keeping people safe.
“[Senior officers] are aware of the financial consequences associated with their operational decisions; it is a factor, but not the overriding factor.
“They do not stop or slow down a missing person inquiry because money is tight.
“They will not reduce the ¬effort to keep someone at risk of harm safe, because it costs too much money.
“They take operational decisions based upon their professional judgement.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We absolutely recognise the scrutiny and accountability role that the SPA will adopt and which will develop and evolve through discussion in the coming weeks.
“Strong local policing is a hallmark of the service we deliver.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “The act establishing Scotland’s new single police service contains a wide range of mechanisms to ensure proper accountability for and scrutiny of policing in Scotland – and makes it clear that the SPA is responsible for holding the chief constable to account for the policing of Scotland.
“It is for the SPA to decide how it will undertake this scrutiny and accountability role.”