The Most Important Role of the Police is to Prevent Crime
As Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the modern Police Force, stated in 1829:
" The police are the public and the public are the police. The police are only members of the public that are paid to give full time attention to duties that are incumbent upon every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence."
The Scottish police motto is 'semper vigilo' meaning always watchful and the police are charged to guard, watch and patrol in order to protect life and property, preserve order prevent crime and detect offenders. They must also prepare reports, serve legal documents and attend court to give evidence. Thus the primary goal of the police is both to form partnerships with the public and to prevent crime whilst enhancing the community's safety and improving the quality of life.
Whilst it is true that the police have a general duty to uphold and enforce the law and to maintain the peace in Scotland, and they are provided with powers through both common law and statutory law to carry out this duty, including powers of arrest and detention, they also have a responsibility for a wider range of functions.
As well as general policing there are a number of more specialised tasks they must do. These include the recovery and return of stolen property. They must make every reasonable effort to recover lost and stolen property, to identify the owner, and ensure its prompt return.
They also have to ensure the safe movement of traffic. They must exercise the responsibility for traffic law enforcement which means enforcing compliance with traffic laws and developing driver awareness of the causes of traffic accidents. The police appropriately warn, cite, or arrest traffic law violators.