In common with other organisations, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis triggered our business continuity response and we immediately implemented a series of measures to mitigate the impact of ‘lockdown’. At the same time, we minimised, where possible, our demands on policing to allow them to focus on the public health crisis and maintain the safety of those in the community.
In accordance with Scottish Government guidelines, we have adapted our working practices and, with a few exceptions, all staff are currently working from home.
This has allowed us to continue to deal with our core business of independently carrying out Investigations and Complaint Handling Reviews and meeting all of our statutory functions, ensuring public confidence in policing is maintained.
Wherever possible, our work is carried out remotely and by using information technology, with teleconferencing and video meetings now standard practice and our Investigators conducting interviews remotely to gather the necessary statements and evidence. Staff have access to our offices, but only for essential business that cannot be carried out at home.
We continue to send Investigators to scenes where it is practical to do so, ensuring staff follow the correct COVID-19 safety guidelines. Where this is not possible we will instruct police to obtain the relevant evidence on our behalf.
While there was an initial drop in the number of referrals to our Investigation Team, as lockdown restrictions have gradually eased and the amount of contact between the public and police has increased, business levels have gradually returned to normal.
In particular, we have seen an increase in the number of incidents where police officers have been called out to deal with groups of people refusing to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, with PAVA spray used by police in many of these incidents. As a result, we have investigated a number of these incidents to ensure the police response has been proportionate. To date, we have found the police response to be justified and necessary to bring incidents of this nature to a safe conclusion.
We continue to provide scrutiny of how police handle complaints made about them by the public. While the number of applications for a Complaint Handling Review also initially dipped, again we are now seeing business levels returning to normal.
While we have taken steps allowing us to progress business as normal, the unprecedented challenges created by the pandemic will inevitably lead to a delay in some areas of our work. We are working hard to reduce delays by continually reviewing our working practices and procedures and we maintain regular contact with our stakeholders and members of the public.
We recognise this is an evolving situation that may change at short notice taking account of Scottish Government guidance. We continue to monitor the situation carefully, making all necessary adjustments to allow us to continue to provide robust oversight of policing in Scotland, while protecting our staff and their families.
In the meantime, we have revised our Business Continuity Plan to allow us to safely implement, when appropriate, a phased return to the office.
In light of changes to our working practices, find out how best to contact us at this time.