THE latest turmoil in Police Scotland is unedifying for the organisation and debilitating for staff. Just as it was steadying itself, the feet are ca’d from under it. A financial boost through VAT exemption and the imminent arrival of a new chairwoman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in Susan Deacon augured well for some stability. Instead she faces an additional challenge with the suspension of several senior officers in a service, previously reeling from bad publicity.

The Budget announcement of VAT exemption had lessened the financial challenges and had seen political parties arguing over who should get the credit, rather than issues to do with the service itself. That was all rather petty, but it did take the focus and pressure off the police.

It was known that VAT exemption would be lost through the restructuring process. However, in terms of costs savings and service delivery it still made sense to proceed. It was hoped and believed that it could be obtained, as after all not just other police services but similarly structured English agencies had qualified for it. Suggested models, though, to meet the criteria were uniformly rebuffed and information on what would suffice to meet its terms refused by the Treasury. It was therefore both a political and perverse decision, the reversal of which was long overdue.

The latest announcement of suspensions is surprising to say the least. It’s rare in the police and reserved for the most serious of allegations. This increases the number of officers suspended in a force of more than 17,000 officers by 50 per cent. Currently, the Chief Constable is on extended leave following allegations, and not suspended, even when further accusations have come to light. Moreover, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has indicated that on the information it possesses, this is less serious than many cases where it hasn’t been invoked in the past.

Both the SPA and the Police and Information Commissioner (PIRC) have been heavily involved, it seems, and in due course questions may arise over their role. That the former organisation acted in a manner so precipitous to the service and prejudicial to individuals, when a new chairwoman was arriving in days is strange indeed.

Hopefully, when she arrives Ms Deacon can consider these most recent actions and reflect on whether they’ve been appropriate. Unless there’s something rotten at the heart of the Police Scotland firearms team this seems disproportionate. Perhaps this is more reflective of a current wider culture in society to act first and question later.

But, as the Justice Secretary said in a TV interview due process does need to be followed. There are procedures for investigation and they need to be carried out quickly but efficiently. Sadly, to date many recent reviews have been unduly slow, damaging to the service and hurting individuals. The Crown and the other agencies pivotal to that need to due their job well but swiftly. Justice delayed, after all, is justice denied. They must up their game.

In the interim the police will just get on with their job. Some at the top will no doubt be saddened and many more at humbler levels just bemused by it all. Moreover, despite increased pressures from terror, cyber and historic sexual abuse an excellent service will continue. Even the best of services makes mistakes and human error can never be legislated against.

But, its to be hoped that politicians will give Susan Deacon the time and space to review and implement any changes that she feels are needed. Much of the problem seems to have arisen through her predecessor and efforts to deal with the service as a business, with the imposition of managerial dictats rather than respect commanded.

Her first priority, though, will be the position of Chief Constable. Again, procedures have to be followed but moving the current one out and recruiting a new one is essential. It hasn’t worked out for Phil Gormley but he can go with good grace and although a recruitment process must be followed it’s hard to see past the current acting chief in Ian Livingstone Many, feel he should have been appointed before but has remained dignified and stepped up to the mark when required.

Both he and Ms Deacon are capable and talented individuals who can make the necessary changes. Some changes will no doubt follow from both her own and Government reviews. There should be greater say for Parliament in the appointment of the SPA board, but allowing the police to be a service not a business is also essential.

There are important issues to be resolved such as Taser roll-out which is a proportionate response for the safety of officers and citizens alike and an alternative to the routine arming of response officers. The sooner that, not the service, becomes the story, the better it will be for us all.