Banging heads

Police Scotland`s chief constable, Phil Gormley, is the subject of an ongoing inquiry into allegations that he has engaged in bullying. He is, for now, staying in post.

Aug 2, 2017

Police Scotland`s chief constable, Phil Gormley, is the subject of an ongoing inquiry into allegations that he has engaged in bullying. He is, for now, staying in post. This is the latest in a series of controversies that have plagued the force since its creation in 2013. Its first chief constable, Sir Stephen House, stepped down after a mere two years in post, after criticisms of what in retrospect appear to be his very sound policies of placing armed officers on routine patrol and stopping and searching juveniles, which could now be claimed, had he remained, as highly prophetic due to increases in both terrorism and stabbings. Sir Stephen was also criticised for failing to respond to a fatal crash on the M9, although he was asleep, off-duty in, so far as we know, his own bed when it happened. The latest developments have prompted a wide range of responses. The leader of the remnants of the Scottish Liberal Democratic party, one Willie Rennie, thinks that Mr Gormley should take a leave of absence to ensure an effective investigation. The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) seems to consider his view to be neither liberal nor democratic, and has announced that it thinks that a suspension is “not appropriate” in the circumstances. Niven Rennie, a former president of the Association of Police Superintendents, has decided that the chief constable’s position is difficult, as there is the potential that witnesses might not come forward because he lives at the headquarters. He has also asked what the other members of the executive team have been doing while all this is going on. Maybe they should also stand down while awaiting dismissal? Mr Gormley is not the first to come under pressure from politicians and the media, and he is not alone. The chair of the SPA, Andrew Flanagan, has already announced that he will quit after being the subject of sustained criticism and allegations. The search for his replacement goes on, and may take some time. The media do not struggle to find critical politicians who will condemn anything that can be blamed on Police Scotland. North of the border, the Liberal Democrats are actually given constant headlines, and Labour, Tories and even Ukip vie to express their absolute outrage whenever an ‘i’ is not dotted at the national force. Not that I condone what could have been inappropriate treatment of a fellow staff officer, although I am curious as to why anyone in his position needs to resort to an official complaint, the threat of leaving out the 9-iron from my commissioner’s golf bag is enough to bring him to his knees; the role has influence I can tell you. In a curious reversal of approaches to aggressive police conduct, President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that police officers should let suspects’ heads bang against the doors of their police cars, rather than protect them, has prompted police departments across the country to condemn his remarks as inappropriate, and stress the need to build community relationships rather than bash prisoners in transit. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for this week at least, says she believes his comment was meant in jest. It is difficult to tell when politicians are being serious, perhaps the Scottish Liberal Democrats are playing one long joke on Police Scotland. Yours, Stitch

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