Police come under fire at heated council meeting

Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson  was quizzed by councillors
Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson was quizzed by councillors

MORAY COUNCILLORS HAVE rejected a proposal that they officially back a campaign against the closure of local police emergency call centres.

The call came during a meeting of the Police and Fire & Rescue Service Committee on Thursday, when senior police officers were quizzed in detail over why it was taking longer to respond to emergency calls.

Police Scotland’s newly appointed Aberdeenshire and Moray divisional commander, Campbell Thomson, defended a police report that indicated response times had increased on average by over two minutes.

He told Councillors that there were a number of factors why that was the case – including that many people were now calling the 101 non-emergency number when they should have called 999.

The response prompted a barrage of questions from Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross, who pointing to a decrease in grade one calls of more than a third wanted to know why that did not result in quicker reaction times.

Chief Superintendent Thomson said: “We operate a community policing model – that means our officers can be anywhere when they receive a 999 call. These officers are not just sitting waiting for calls to come in, weather and road conditions also play a part in how quickly they can arrive.”

The committee also learned that often arrival times by police officers were not accurately recorded, Chief Superintendent Thomson saying that could skewer the figures adding: “The fact that an increase has been shown means that is absolutely something we have to look at.”

Councillor Ross also clashed with committee chairman Councillor Ron Shepherd, who interrupted his string of questions suggesting that he had had enough time and that he (Councillor Shepherd) was satisfied with the report.

That produced a protest from Councillor Ross who said that at no time has a member of the committee ever been stopped from asking questions in a committee that existed to scrutinise the work of the Police and Fire services in Moray.

When allowed to continue, Councillor Ross proposed that the committee officially backed a campaign against the closure of local call centres with his motion supported by Elgin South councillor John Divers.

The committee, however, rejected that by five votes to two, preferring instead an amendment that they await the result of the national review currently being undertaken by HMICS.

During the meeting the police chiefs pledged to make increased efforts at solving the vandal attacks that are endangering lives in New Elgin.

Councillor Graham Leadbitter asked for an update on the carpet tacks that are appearing on local streets, prompting Moray division Chief Inspector Willie Findlay to admit that it was a serious issue and the local force were allocating “significant resources” into finding the culprits.

He said: “A number of tactics are being deployed and have been deployed and that is going to be expanded to try and get to the root of the problem. Someone is getting a perverse pleasure out of doing this.”

Councillor Leadbitter said that he hoped the increased focus by police would deter any further incidents, adding: “It is encouraging that officers are looking at new ways to identify the party or parties responsible for this completely ridiculous behaviour.”