Labour Criticise Police Changes A Year On

Scotland's police and fire services have faced several ``challenges'' since they were merged into single units a year ago, according to Labour.

Police Scotland's first year has seen thousands of staff cuts, a tailing off of officer numbers, police station and control room closures, plus ``fiddled'' crime figures, according to Labour Justice Committee member Graeme Pearson. 

Fire Scotland has also faced ``a number of challenges'' including control room and training facility closures, Labour community safety spokeswoman Elaine Murray said. 

Mr Pearson said: ``We have seen since the merger of Scotland's police forces that the men and women who police our streets, and the civilian staff who support them, continue to do a fine job. 

``But Police Scotland is facing significant challenges. Police staff have been axed in their thousands, police officer numbers have begun to drop, police stations and control rooms across Scotland have closed. More and more officers are sitting behind desks doing paperwork; they should be out on the street catching criminals. 

``Now we find out that police officers, under pressure from their bosses, are fiddling figures. Local communities are losing their voice about how they are policed. That isn't what we voted for in Parliament. 

``With a new police computer system running dangerously over budget, a threat of strike action by police staff and millions being paid out for ill-health early retirements, Police Scotland isn't a happy place to be. 

``Things need to change and Scottish Labour is committed to ensuring that our national police force is locally accountable and responsive. Unless that happens, the problems facing Police Scotland won't be tackled and can only get worse.'' 

Ms Murray said: ``The single fire service has faced a number of challenges, but perhaps it has been the decision to close the control rooms and the training college in Gullane which has sparked the most controversy. 

``As with Police Scotland, the service must become more consultative, more transparent and work much more closely with our communities. 

``The men and women who put their lives on the line, day in and day out on our behalf should always be supported as much as possible. But those at the top must recognise that by acting as if they always know best, they damage the hard earned respect of those who risk their lives on our behalf.''

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