An inspection by the Scottish police watchdog has revealed that not all Police Scotland officers have vetting records. It also appears that some officers and other members of staff have never been vetted since they initially started their career. The inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) has highlights a lack of vetting processes within Police Scotland. This report comes hot on the heels of criticism of the Metropolitan Police’s vetting system, which saw the Met Police commissioner forced to admit in spring 2023 that there were 161 serving Met Police officers with criminal convictions, some of which were for violent or sexual offences.


How are Police Vetted?

Police vetting is supposed to be stringent and detailed in order to prevent people joining the police for the wrong reasons. Vetting for police officers is comprehensive and can take some time to complete, which is why it can take quite some time from application to starting training. This is separate to the identity checking or background checks done by other employers. Police forces will ask for the following information:

  • Personal details including information for a credit check and criminal record check.
  • Details about your immediate family such as parents, siblings, partners, and adult children.
  • Details of any people who you live with who aren’t related to you.
  • Any organisations you are a member of, or friendships which could cause a conflict of interest.

The Police service will the carry out background checks on the applicant, their friends and family. This includes credit checks to make sure any police officers are not vulnerable to blackmail or corruption, and social media checks which scour the information available online to ensure only suitable people are appropriate for training as a police officer.


New Recommendations

In the wake of the report into Police Scotland’s vetting process, the Scottish Inspectorate has suggested that this detailed vetting should be repeated at least every decade. It also urged the Scottish government to introduce legislation to allow Scotland’s chief constable to dismiss officers or staff who have not been through the vetting process. The report recommends an annual shorter integrity review for all police staff to uncover any issues such as convictions and misconduct.

In response to the findings, Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Constable Alan Speirs emphasized the force’s commitment to safeguarding values and standards, noting that over 5,000 officers and staff had undergone enhanced vetting with annual reviews. The force will now implement additional checks for new recruits and a program of re-vetting in collaboration with staff associations and unions. A review will be undertaken to identify those police officers and civilian workers who have not undergone vetting for a significant period.

Although the most recent report applies to Scotland only, other police forces around the UK are also looking carefully at their vetting processes, especially for officers who have been in their position for several years. Enhanced vetting aims to increase public confidence in the police in the wake of some high-profile scandals involving serving officers.