The new Chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Susan Deacon today gave her first public speech at the 2017 International Policing Conference organised by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) .
Ms Deacon spoke about the role that the SPA must play alongside others to address the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead, and thanked the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson for giving a strong commitment to supporting the SPA to develop and improve going forward.
Speaking at the conference Ms Deacon said:
"Policing in Scotland needs a strong Scottish Police Authority (SPA).
"I want to acknowledge the efforts that many have made, including members of the existing Board, to build and develop the work of the SPA.
"I want to build on that improvement and I see my role as leading the organisation into a new chapter. A lot of focus in the recent past has been on the internal workings of the Scottish Police Authority, and that is not where the focus should be. The focus needs to be on policing and the future of policing in Scotland.
"It is incumbent on all of us in the SPA, to make sure that the Authority is working well and that we can focus on our core purpose. I see that being a rich combination of challenge and scrutiny, and of working to ensure that we build a wider understanding and shared commitment among the Scottish public, policy makers and stakeholders about what the future of policing can look like.
"I believe it is possible and necessary to do that and I think we do that by taking a number of steps.
"I want the SPA itself to turn outwards. I think there are many ways in which the Authority can do that and do it more effectively than has been the case in the past. Some of that is about how we as an organisation and how I as Chair work with stakeholders, work with the public, listen to police officers and police staff, and engage with their concerns as effectively as possible.
"Some of it is about how we conduct our business itself. I have my first public meeting as Chair next week, and I am pleased to say I have been working very closely with DCC Designate Iain Livingstone and his team to make sure that we use that board meeting to best effect. To shine a light on the challenges that lie ahead, to share where Police Scotland has got to with a very challenging programme of transformation and change, and also to use that board meeting to build wider public debate and understanding around some of the big developments in operational policing that the public need to be engaged in, and have an understanding of.
"Alongside my appointment as Chair, we also have a new Chief Officer in place, Kenneth Hogg. While I will be focusing on turning outwards, he is looking inwards and looking to see how we can ensure the SPA as an organisation has the capability, the capacity and the systems, practices and culture to do its job well. He too has only been in the door a matter of weeks but I can assure you he is also working very hard on that very task.
"We are also taking steps to build and develop the Board itself. There are a number of existing vacancies, and some members will be ending their term of office next year. On the Board, I want to ensure we reach out and bring in people who share a passion and commitment for policing in Scotland and can help to take forward the work of the Authority in the way I have described. To step up and play a leadership role going forward.
"Initial information about Board member recruitment will go out next week, and the process will open early in the New Year. I would ask those with an interest in policing to reach out and share with your networks and contacts. This is one of the most demanding, but also the most rewarding, areas of public service for people in Scotland to become involved in.
"Moving forward, what I want to emphasise today are some core principles I believe will drive forward change and address challenges ahead.
"Fundamentally, if we get the right people, the right relationships, and the right trust and confidence in place then I think there are few limits on what can actually be achieved in policing.
"There has been a lot of criticism, not just of the SPA, but of many aspects of the debate around policing in the recent period. However, since I was announced in this position about a month ago, I have been very touched and at times quite overwhelmed by the messages of support that I have received. Not just in terms of me and my role, but from people in lots of walks in life and lots of leadership roles in Scotland who want to work together as part of 'team Scotland' to take policing forward in the future.
"I believe this is because we have a very deep and shared belief in policing in Scotland and an understanding of how important it is. And for all the noise that there is in the system, I think most people when given the opportunity will want to work to build on that.
Ms Deacon concluded by outlining how she expects to approach scrutiny. She added:
"I believe passionately in openness. I think there is much more that we can and should do to ensure clarity and transparency in the work of the SPA, and how we work with Police Scotland in helping to shine a light on what they are doing.
"However, with scrutiny comes responsibility for all concerned. I have travelled a journey both pre and post devolution. I've seen openness and transparency increase one hundred fold or more. I think we still have a way to go as a country to actually make the best of that openness and transparency to try and construct the sorts of conversations, space and scrutiny that will take us forward in the future.
"The SPA has an important part to play in ensuring we try and take that to another level in the months and years ahead, and you the people of Scotland have my absolutely commitment that I will do that."
"With the right people and relationships in place, we can do that."