Scotland’s top police officer said she has been “shocked” by the lack of focus on frontline policing in Scotland since taking up her post seven months ago.

Addressing the centenary conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) in the Borders, Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell said the organisation was being “held under the water on a daily basis” by the scale of demand it faces.

She pointed to officers being taken off the front line to do work that should be done by police staff, and the demands of mental health incidents and court citations, which she said had a “significant impact” on policing by taking officers out of their communities and seeing rest days cancelled.

She said an officer attends a mental health-related incident every three or four minutes on average, which, she said, equates to between five and seven hundred full-time officers’ worth of time.

She said “We must focus intently on our core duties and what matters to the people we serve. We must evolve our service so that we can live within our means and are fit for the challenges coming down the line.

“Some of our evolution will be in our structures and working practices, but everything we do must be about prioritising the front line and tackling harm and high harm and the issues that most affect the communities we serve.”

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