THE article by your columnist Stephen Paton on Monday raises some interesting discussion points in these febrile times we all face together.

Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police Service (some 29 years after Govan Burgh Police), on nine “Peelian principles” (likely authored by joint commissioners Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne), grounded on the idea that “the public are the police and the police are the public” – its officers being citizens in uniform with some additional powers, acting with the public’s consent. Crucially, Peel promoted the ethical standpoint that police effectiveness be measured not on the numbers of arrests made, but the lack of crime. That remains relevant today, ever more so in the measured and proportionate policing response to the Covid-19 pandemic by the UK-wide principles of “engage”, “explain”, “encourage” and, where absolutely necessary, “enforce” (and yet our mass media are obsessed with how many tickets were issued or how many arrests made to splash their headlines from their particular political agenda).

READ MORE: Stephen Paton: This is what we really mean when we say that ‘ACAB’

Stephen Paton’s description of the police officer’s role being, at best, “an amoral automaton, just following orders issued by the state” either completely misunderstands or deliberately misrepresents the office of constable and its unique role in democratic society. Not least the operational independence of the Chief Constable. Yes, the main functions of the police are to uphold the law, to keep the peace and to prevent crime and detect offenders. But in protecting life also, almost uniquely amongst all public services, the scope of our mission, “Keeping People Safe”, is founded on human rights and is significantly wider and ever more complex as other services fail to respond effectively in crises, most notably to support those people with addiction or mental health illnesses whose lives shatter in our communities.

In light of significant budgetary challenges the service now faces, those who screech like vexed parrots “ACAB – defund the police!” have simply no concept of how much we do nor the gaping hole that would indeed be left in public life were Parliament to implement the radical suggestions of replacing “an ineffective and outdated institution which does not actually protect our communities”. What utter tosh! The Police Service of Scotland protects communities and saves individual lives every day around the clock whilst others sleep safely in their beds. Our staff manage the traumatic calls for help (upwards of 10,000 calls converting into over 5000 incidents every day) and despatch officers to respond to those who are armed, violent and intent on harming others or running towards grave dangers presented by fire, floods and other high-risk environments, then administering first aid, supporting those suddenly bereaved, finding safe havens for those abused and bringing offenders to justice.

YES, policing is far from perfect (it was ever so when in 1800, constable one said to constable two on the Govan Road “TJIF!”) but from my personal experience over many years and roles (latterly as head of road policing – and I do know who my father was), when myriad crises strike in our communities, there are no citizens better equipped and trained to respond than the police supported by our “blue light” partners. Where there is an absence of civil policing in trouble spots around the world, look at the prevailing violent chaos as the evil prey upon the weak.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour threatened with police boycott after 'ACAB' Twitter post

I say to Stephen Paton and those who think “ACAB”, come forward with your ideas for a new civil protection service, and please bring with you certificated evidence of your occupational and operational competences to do so.

The service has worked relentlessly to transform itself through police reform, bringing together 10 legacy organisations effectively and efficiently, whilst achieving a reduction in the annual budget of more than £200 million. Such de facto “defunding” of financial settlements has consequences: there has been insufficient investment in some leadership/management training, a concern that ASPS regularly discusses with the Chief Constable and welcomes efforts to develop appropriate training, within the socially distanced environment we now all must occupy.

But it is simply inaccurate to paraphrase that the recent HMICS report into police leadership training said “that officers responding to critical incidents did so while lacking emotional intelligence”. What Mrs Imery said was: “Police leaders are very effective in command roles when responding to critical incidents” and it was clear from her report that it is in other modes of leadership and management (most probably partnership working) that, according to senior people in our partner agencies “they lack emotional intelligence, self-awareness and strategic perspective”.

Well, that is one consequence of what happens when you enter a lengthy period of transformation under strict budgetary controls and, necessarily, a directive, transactional management model under relentless political scrutiny.

But throughout the period of defunding leadership training (but crucially, not the technical courses required to perform command roles), one course has been continuously delivered to inspectors, chief inspectors and superintendents: “CIMplexity” – group-based training focusing on a “perfect storm” of critical incidents affecting a fictional community and which tests police leaders over several days on their communication, decision-making, emotional and technical policing skills. Having participated as a student and facilitator on a number of CIMplexity courses, I can attest to the acute pressures that our team leaders are placed under to find a vulnerable missing girl – which then rapidly develops into complex cultural and societal problems, public protest, criminality and community disharmony which are not of the service’s making.

In closing, journalists have recently accompanied our uniformed patrols to see at first-hand their care and empathy for their fellow citizens and their determination to uphold the law and keep people safe in the face of aggression and violence directed towards them, often whilst other citizens film them carrying out their duties.

ACAB: All Cops Are Braw.