The role of the Police

It is obviously preferable if the police can prevent crimes from being committed. This can involve having a physical community police presence. The police patrols can be conducted in cars, on foot, on horseback or on bikes.

A considerable amount of police resources are spent on educating people on how to look after their possessions and informing the public of the consequences of particular crimes, such as knife carrying or drink-driving. For example, Police Scotland conducted a media campaign following the reduction of alcohol level for driving.

Arresting criminals

Police Scotland officers can stop and search a person without having a search warrant if the officer suspects the person of being in possession of the following:

  • drugs
  • an offensive weapon
  • stolen property
  • alcohol if travelling to major sporting events particularly on public transport
  • evidence in relation to an offence under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002
  • cash or the cash equivalent of £1,000 or more as a result of criminal activity
  • fireworks if a police officer suspects that the person intends to use the fireworks in an anti-social manner

Maintaining public order

Two police officers on duty

A great deal of Police Scotland's more visible work is managing large crowds often at big sporting occasions or demonstrations. The priorities are public safety and ensuring that those present do not break the law.

In recent years, counter-terrorism has been a new Scottish public order issue. Counter-terrorism policy and legislation is reserved to the UK Parliament but the Scottish Government and Police Scotland work closely with other UK police bodies.

Managing traffic

Traffic police have the responsibility of enforcing road traffic laws, traffic management and road safety. Speeding motorists and drunk drivers are the most obvious and serious road issues that traffic police deal with. Within hours of the lower drink drive limit coming into force of the 5th December 2014, five motorists were caught out.

Consequences of drinking alcohol and driving, punishments, deaths and frequent offenders.

Driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of alcohol can lead to up to 6 months in prison and a fine of £5,000. The offender’s licence is endorsed for 11 years, leading to additional costs and problems with insurance and employment.

In 2015-16 3,537 people were convicted of driving under the influence but by the following year it had increased to 3,646 which is a 3% increase. In December 2014 the drink driving laws in Scotland became more strict. Even one drink could put someone over the limit. It is not clear if the new law has led to the increase in convictions.

Ranks within the police

There are nine ranks of police officer in the UK:

  • Chief Constable
  • Deputy Chief Constable
  • Assistant Chief Constable
  • Chief Superintendent
  • Superintendent
  • Chief Inspector
  • Inspector
  • Sergeant
  • Constable

Scottish police forces also make use of part-time volunteer Special Constables. Special Constables have the same powers as regular police officers.