While the merger of the north-east’s two police divisions was always going to have its challenges, the officer charged with heading the region could not have anticipated the “unprecedented” flooding crisis the emergency services would be faced with.
Just a fortnight into the new North East division, its most senior officer, Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson, said there could not have been a bigger test for his officers.
But it was a large-scale operation which he says was made significantly easier thanks to the single division.
At the height of last week’s flooding, every single officer on duty was deployed to deal with the impact of the severe weather, which caused the region’s rivers to burst their banks.
Emergency services were called into action in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray as flood water encroached on homes and businesses, and forced nearly 30 of the region’s roads to be closed at its peak.
Police were responsible for coordinating the emergency services response as the area was devastated by heavy rain and flooding, followed by blizzards and freezing conditions towards the end of last week.
“I think because it’s now one division it actually makes coordinating officers across the north-east more straight forward,” said Mr Thomson.
“What the one division has is the ability to flex resources to where the greatest need is.
“Just prior to New Year the greatest need was in Deeside – and there still is a significant requirement there to support the recovery work – but just now we’ve got officers dealing with the significant weather impact on Donside.
“Over and above that, officers are still doing their day job – officers are still in communities, they’re still working with partners, they’re still detecting crimes, they’re still being a police presence. Collectively, strengthening the divisions has meant we’ve been able to react as and when the force has been required.”
Mr Thomson was at pains to acknowledge the work of every single emergency service and all three local authorities in responding to the devastation caused by the flooding.
And he reserved special praise for the generosity and community spirit shown by local people the length and breadth of the region.
He said: “The partnership working between ourselves, the emergency services, the partner agencies, and the communities themselves has been absolutely excellent.
“There are some of our own officers whose houses have been flooded and they’re back at work, and have been continuing to work throughout this period.
“What I want to emphasise again is this is not just about the police.
“I think some of the work I’ve read about and some that I’ve seen first-hand in relation to individuals, charities and others who have come together to help people at their time of need has been absolutely outstanding.
“But in the north-east we’re used to that support from the public. We’ve got tremendous communities in the north-east who make such a real difference.
“Certainly from a policing perspective, it makes our job an awful lot easier.”
With the clean-up well under way, Mr Thomson said the extent of the recovery operation required cannot be underestimated.
He added: “We need to remember that Braemar is still isolated, we still don’t have road access from the east.
“Let’s remember that the Ballater police office has been destroyed by the flooding, so we’re working on a business continuity plan to deliver policing.
“I think the work, some of it often unseen, is absolutely building the infrastructure that we need to go about our daily business.
“What we’re doing, certainly from a policing perspective, is supporting that work.”