ANALYSIS: The allegations against Chief Constable Phil Gormley

IT WAS launched with the aim of transforming frontline policing in a way the country had never seen before.

Criminals did not observe neat lines, it was argued, so why should the police?

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And so the old eight forces of Scotland's constabulary were swept away and replaced with the single, unified Police Scotland charged – as the then-Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill vowed – with keeping people safe and responding to the needs of communities.

Yet four years after the new force was launched, it has been anything but an easy road.

Two chief constables have taken the helm already, although current chief Phil Gormley remains on gardening leave amid an investigation into allegations of bullying.

And with five people now coming forward with complaints about the man at the top, and whole host of issues which go beyond teething troubles, questions remain over whether the new vision for law and order remains fit for purpose. 

HeraldScotland: Phil Gormley

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Born out of the modestly-named Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 and backed by all parties at Holyrood, Police Scotland came into being officially in April 2013.

With 17,436 officers, 6168 police staff and 1404 special constables among its ranks, it was the second largest force in the UK after the Metropolitan Police in London.

It was no secret that its creation came amid swingeing cuts to public services. The reforms were designed to save about £1.7 billion over 15 years without cutting frontline staff, honouring the SNP’s manifesto commitment to maintain 1000 more officers than the 16,234 it inherited when it came to power in 2007.

There have been huge success stories – notable convictions in difficult cases and a drop in recorded crime to its lowest level since 1974.

But this has occurred against a backdrop of criticism almost from day one.

HeraldScotland:

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Sir Stephen House, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met and the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, was the first man in charge.

There were immediate accusations of the “Strathclydisation” of the force with some regional commands finding their old ways of doing things no longer applied in the brave new world.

Eyebrows were raised when a number of saunas in Edinburgh were raided in a move against the sex industry in the capital, which authorities had traditionally turned a blind eye to, a month before the official launch of Police Scotland,

Although it was repeatedly denied by the force, the move was seen as a standardisation of a new, hard line stance under Mr House.

The move to the single force was also with a public spat between the new Chief Constable and the head of the force’s civilian oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Sir Stephen was at loggerheads with SPA chairman Vic Emery over who should control the deployment of police staff, until Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill brokered an 11th-hour deal which will allow the police and SPA to share staff functions.

Yet the controversies continued. A year later the force had to back down after it emerged it had allowed trained firearms officers to carry side arms while on routine patrols on Scotland’s high streets.

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The decision, taken without full consultation, was amended in the face of a political outcry when the force revealed it would stop deploying these officers to routine calls and incidents.

The Scotland-wide policy to stop and search tens of thousands of people without suspicion of a crime, including children, was similarly overturned and the force was also found to have unlawfully spied on contacts between officers and journalists.

There has also been ongoing controversy over the death of Sheku Bayoh in custody.

The father-of-two, originally from Sierra Leone, passed away after a struggle with officers in Kircaldy in May 2015, and his family are still awaiting answers over what lead to his death.

Sir Stephen was to step down in September 2016 following the death of Lamara Bell and her boyfriend John Yuill, who were found in a four days after it was reported to the police.

Although he did not reference the incident in his resignation statement, Mr House left with accusations of chaos among the force’s call-handling centres ringing in his ears.

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