Scotland

Police recruitment: Rules on tattoos and fitness tests revised

Police officers Image copyright Getty Images

Police Scotland's policy on tattoos is among several "potential barriers" the force is looking at changing in order to attract new recruits.

The SNP government is committed to maintaining 1,000 more officers than when it came to power in 2007.

Police Scotland has also been reviewing its regulations on fitness tests and driving requirements.

And it has introduced an easier application form for potential candidates seeking to join the force.

Police Scotland's head of resource management Peter Blair is due to address a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Tuesday.

'Potential barriers'

He will tell the members of the SPA's human resources and remuneration committee that supply traditionally outstripped demand in terms of police recruitment in the past, but a fear of being relocated has become one of the main concerns for applicants since the forces merged in 2013.

He will say there are "no indications that the Scottish government's pledge that Police Scotland maintain an establishment figure of 17,234 police officers will be removed" and he will warn improved marketing and recruitment reforms could cost the cash-strapped force - currently wrestling a £25m budget shortfall - up to £400,000.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Blair said: "The number of applications has been the singular most significant issue for the recruitment function over the last two and a half years.

"A number of potential barriers to application were identified that appeared to be contradictory to the need to maintain applications.

"These included the requirement for driving licences, the residential element of police training, fitness testing, the standard entrance test and the tattoo policy.

"To date, many of these elements of the process have been reconsidered and revised processes implemented. Work continues in this area to address the remaining elements."

Image copyright PA

Tattoos do not prohibit applicants from becoming police officers but tattoos on the face "are not acceptable other than for religious or medical reasons", Police Scotland's recruitment website states.

It also warns that tattoos - whether visible or otherwise - should not "undermine the dignity and authority of the office of constable, cause offence to members of the public or colleagues and/or invite provocation" or "indicate unacceptable attitudes towards any individual or section of the community".

Revised application

Mr Blair added: "Traditionally, recruitment to police forces in Scotland has not been problematic with supply considerably outweighing demand across the majority of the country.

"As a result, the selection process was quite challenging for individuals based on the ethos that motivated candidates would make the required effort.

"The current projected applications has now led us to review, test and remodel some aspects of the process without reducing the quality of the candidate who successfully negotiate the whole process."

The head of resource management at Police Scotland said the biggest loss of potential candidates appeared to have been the old application form which "may have been a bar to application".

"As a result, a revised application form was introduced in October 2015 which, although still assessed on competency, is easier for the candidate to understand and complete," he said.

"One of the main concerns of potential applicants to Police Scotland is the fear of being relocated across Scotland.

"In 2014, a posting preference was implemented to mitigate these concerns, with recent research showing that this remains the biggest issue for potential applicants despite 95% of applicants being offered a posting within one of their top preferences. This continues to be monitored."

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