Crime has soared across Scotland as the lockdown restrictions were reduced, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told today’s coronavirus briefing (Friday June 5)
He joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch for the briefing.
He said: "I know the role of the police, the coercive authority policing at times exercises in the name of our fellow citizens to protect us all, will rightly be subject to robust scrutiny, focus and challenge. I welcome that, I welcome open and direct conversations about policing, it is absolutely vital for democracy and fairness.
"Like everyone, as Chief Constable and as a man, I was shocked and distressed by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent events that transpired and continue to transpire in the United States. Racism in all forms is disgraceful and unacceptable.
"I fully understand the desire of people in Scotland to make their voices heard this weekend over racial injustice. The right to be heard; to protest; to campaign, is of vital importance and policing has a key role in enabling, supporting such freedoms to be exercised fully and safely.
"Our duty in policing is to enable you to have your voice heard in a way that is safe for you and safe for others. Please do so in a way that does not risk spreading coronavirus. Policing in Scotland will help in this regard.
"I know there are a number of planned events this weekend and we are in touch with some of the people involved in organising them to try to help them do that in a safe manner. As Chief Constable, I urge everyone to follow the regulations and guidance, as the majority of people have thankfully done over the last 10 weeks; to keep themselves and others safe and to prevent the spread of coronavirus."
He went on: "The small changes made last week following 10 weeks of strict lockdown rules, did coincide with particularly good weather and, in my judgement, perhaps did lead to some people feeling and acting a bit demob happy. Gatherings at parks, beaches, beauty spots were concerning, leading policing to make a little over 2,000 separate dispersals over the 72 hour weekend period.
"At the same time, we saw non-coronavirus related crime returning to levels which are more in line with business as usual, and in fact we made over 1,000 arrests, none of them in relation to coronavirus regulations, placing acute demand on policing.
"We continued to have high levels of engagement with people last weekend to offer advice and, in most cases that was met with support and co-operation. I pay tribute to everyone who is working together to save lives.
"I don’t think the weather is to be quite as good this weekend, but I would ask that people do not travel to beauty spots and, crucially, do not hold house parties or gatherings indoors. The police service will take very robust action in that regard because it is vital to control the spread of the virus."
He concluded: "It is essential that everyone sticks with it, sticks to the rules. Do the right thing to prevent the virus spreading. If we don’t, more of what is currently guidance may be brought into legislation. If that is the case, Police Scotland will continue to act in a fair and proportionate manner. Our approach won’t change. We will always work with the people to do the right thing.
We will rely on consent and co-operation, act with courtesy, but we will take enforcement measures when necessary."