Forth Valley’s new top cop has said community councils should be given equal priority with social media when it comes to police communication.

Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson recently took over as the area’s most senior officer from CS Thom McLoughlin, who created a stir in November last year when he said officers felt social media was a better way of engaging with residents and he wanted to see community councils become “more reflective of their communities”.

He later sought to clarify his remarks by saying: “The traditional community councils are essential and provide a slow time two-way feedback for the community and the officer. The virtual community engagement is more agile and gives us a pulse check of our communities in real-time and across a broad section of society.”

Quizzed on his own views at a meeting of Stirling Council’s public safety committee yesterday (Thursday), his replacement CS Gibson said his predecessor had mentioned the matter to him during a handover period.

“I have a long history in community policing and in attending community council meetings,” said CS Gibson. “I wasn’t here when he [CS McLoughlin] made these comments so I can’t comment on the context, but in my view no one channel is any more important than another. We have to listen to as many community channels as we can. Some people will engage with social media and others will do so in other ways.

“I’d be keen to engage with every single channel of communication, whatever that may be. Attending community councils has always been a challenge - including 25 years ago when I worked in communities in Glasgow.

“I have asked area commanders to ensure they have an available communication channel so that all groups can reach out. Invariably we may not always be able to attend community council meetings because of policing demands but it is about being as accessible as we possibly can.”

Asked by Councillor Kane if he felt the balance was currently right, CS Gibson said it was too early for him to be able to gauge that as yet, however he was happy to report back to a future meeting.

Area commander for Stirling, Chief Inspector Gill Marshall said, based on current projected shift patterns for 2020, some officers may only be able to attend 28 per cent of community council meetings because the fixed dates of community council meetings clashed with days off.

“We are currently sitting at an attendance rate of between 40 and 44 per cent, but are trying to make changes in shift patterns to try to accommodate this.”

Forth and Endrick SNP councillor Graham Lambie said he was aware of police officers who often attended on their own time and did not receive that time back.

CI Marshall said: “They don’t necessarily tell us they have done that. They are clearly doing that from the goodness of their heart. If they are due time back, however, they will absolutely get it.”

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