It’s been all too predictable. In fact we did predict it. We warned that centralisation of the police would be detrimental to the service.
Since then we’ve had the problems of armed police, stop and search, police station closures, the target culture and more.
The latest chapter in the tale of Police Scotland is that of Bilston Glen Police Control Room. Earlier this year I was approached by control room staff to raise the alarm about the closure of Glenrothes and the transfer of responsibilities to Bilston Glen.
They told me about the alarming rate of dropped calls (more than 1000 in 24 hours), high rates of staff sickness and that one caller waited 58 minutes.
I raised it with the First Minister at our weekly encounter in Parliament but she didn’t seem to know what was going on. Police Scotland immediately dismissed the claims of the control room staff saying that calls were answered in less than one minute. Less than one minute? As callers to Bilston Glen will know that is absolutely true because it is a machine that answers! Yet speaking to a human takes a lot longer.
This week Police Scotland has confessed that there is a problem. 101 non-emergency calls take up to 11 minutes for an answer and even more concerning is that 999 emergency calls take up to 3 minutes for attention.
Hundreds of calls are being discontinued every week with a high at the beginning of May of over 400. Smaller numbers of emergency calls are being dropped.
Staff sickness rates are high too with 25 police officers and 77 police staff off sick as of 11th June across Scotland.
There are also over 50 vacancies adding pressure to already pressurised staff. I’ve heard reports that more police officers are tasked with control room duties to make up the shortfall leaving gaps elsewhere in the service.
The big question now is whether the steps being taken to address the crisis at Bilston Glen will resolve that crisis or will only be a sticking plaster.