Police Scotland has been criticised after it emerged that a rural division was set stop and search targets equivalent to an urban area.
The President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, Ch Supt David O’Connor (pictured), said the force should not be putting officers “in straight-jackets”.
Currently officers in Scotland are not set individual stop and search targets but their divisions are – these are embedded in the local policing plans. In total, there are 14 separate divisions and staff associations, as well as local authorities, must be consulted over the plans.
Ch Supt O’ Connor chose not to name the rural division, but said the targets risked taking away Scottish officers’ “greatest power”.
He said: “I would seriously question that (the target set).
“In Scotland we still believe the greatest power we have is the power of discretion.
“Let us not be putting police officers out in straight-jackets to do their job.”
Ch Supt O’ Connor said the targets were part of the interim local policing plans – following the merging of Scotland’s eight forces – and new plans were being drawn up for April 2014.
He said there was flexibility built into the plans and his concerns were being taken into consideration.
He expanded: “Some of the issues that may be high-profile in an urban setting might not be an issue within the rural setting.
“You can hit the target but miss the point.”
Ch Supt O’Connor added that the targets were subject to monthly review by local commanders.
Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Wayne Mawson, chose not to comment on the specifics of the rural division.
He maintained stop and search powers were important for officers – and they had to take responsibility for using them themselves.
He said: “Police Scotland has not set any individual targets for officers in relation to stop and search. However, officers are briefed to use these powers when they have reasonable cause to search any individual.
“The briefings target known weapons carriers and violence hotspots and officers are required to stop and search the right people at the right time and the right place.
“Every officer is accountable for his or her actions and instructed at all times to act with integrity, fairness and respect.
“The continued use of directed policing plans will in our view continue to impact on violent crime and help keep people safe.”