Perth custody suite is set to be reclassified as an ancillary centre rather than a primary centre as part of a criminal justice remodelling programme.
The majority of offenders are being taken into custody in Dundee rather than Perth.
But councillors have this week been assured the Perth custody suite is not closing.
An update on the situation was provided to Perth and Kinross Council’s housing and communities committee on Monday May 31.
Changes could come in September
Chief superintendent Andrew Todd said: “We’re not the only local authority area that’s going through this reconsideration.
“The actual proposal itself went to the Police Scotland joint negotiating consultative committee on January 14.
“That’s when this process of consultation began with the interested parties and it’s expected we will return to that group around June.
“If – and I stress the word if – changes were made they would be made around September of this year.”
He said the proposal meant the Perth custody centre would be reclassified from being a primary custody centre to an ancillary custody centre.
CI Todd said: “The custody facilities at Perth are not being closed. They are not being decommissioned.
He added: “It will not impact on the Perth building itself. Perth building remains as it is working as it is so there is no impact upon that.
“The purpose of this review is to make sure that we have better outcomes for people in custody and that we return officers to the front line.
“There is a really strong focus on how we look after, manage and support people who are in custody.”
He told the council committee the days of the police holding people in custody overnight just because they could were “long long since passed and rightly so”.
CI Todd said there was a “tremendous amount of scrutiny” over keeping people in custody and the police would only do so if there was a “very strong reason for doing so”.
As a result the committee was told there are now far less people held in custody than ever before.
CI Todd said in 2008/9 there were 18,000 people taken into custody in Tayside. Last year that figure had dropped to 7800.
He said keeping the Perth custody suite as an ancillary centre meant it could be stepped up at any point and gave the recent Scottish Cup final weekend as an example of when they did this.
CI Todd said they had planned there may be the potential to bring custodies in and so Perth custody suite was staffed for that event.
Perth City Centre Conservative councillor Chris Ahern asked how officers driving people to Dundee would affect taking officers from the front line.
CI Todd said there was a “tipping point” if Dundee perhaps could not cope with an increase in those being held across the entirety of Tayside.
He said the processing time for Perth and Kinross officers at the Dundee custody suite was the key performance indicator – rather than travel – which they would monitor closely.
He said the situation would be reviewed annually and could be reversed.
Worries over move
The committee’s convener councillor Bob Brawn expressed concern.
The Blairgowrie and Glens councillor said: “I hope the front-line officers won’t be affected by this change.
“I know people – that I have spoken to – continually feel the police are becoming more isolated from the public because police stations are closing, more officers are now in cars and vans by necessity because they have to cover such a wide distance.
“So I hope the plans you have will not take officers off the front line – or not for too long anyway.”
He said rural communities “rarely see a police officer” these days.
Cllr Brawn pledged to write to the Scottish Government voicing his concern there is a shortage of police officers.
He said: “I will be writing to the cabinet secretary for justice to raise my concerns that there are just not enough police officers in Scotland.”
Police Scotland and the Scottish Government have been approached for comment.