A new joint initiative between Central Scotland Police and Tayside Police, the Scottish Gamekeepers? Association (SGA) and the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) will seek to enlist gamekeepers, stalkers and landowners to become special constables ? part-time volunteer officers who have all the same powers as regular police officers.
Recruitment for the project, which will be piloted in the Central Scotland and Tayside areas, will begin this spring with the intention to have the first 12 ?rural specials? in service by the end of the year.
Central Scotland police deputy chief constable Iain McLeod, who heads the wildlife crime team for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland), announced the initiative in an address at the annual wildlife crime conference, held at the Scottish Police College, Tulliallan, on 18 February.
He said: ?Special constables perform a valuable role both in terms of delivering policing with a real local flavour and, through their voluntary status, giving something back to communities across our area. The specials who are recruited will work closely with dedicated community policing teams in rural areas to help deliver on our absolute commitment to protect the public and prevent and tackle crime.?
Countryside and shooting organisations have welcomed the move.
SRPBA?s Douglas McAdam commented: ?Not only is this an extremely important measure to address rural crime, it will also be a valuable exercise in rebuilding confidence and trust between rural communities and the police. Gamekeepers, for instance, are in many cases the eyes and ears of the countryside, and these attributes can be used to good effect in this ground-breaking initiative. This will deliver a win-win situation for all in our rural communities.?
The SGA?s Alex Hogg said he is glad the police recognise the contribution gamekeepers make to beating rural crime: ?The nature of our profession means that we live in remote and isolated communities, far from police stations, so local police have traditionally relied on our skills and our intimate knowledge of the countryside when they need help with crime or when people are injured or go missing. It will take time to rebuild trust and confidence after some difficult years, but I look forward to seeing a return to a time when keepers again take up the challenge of being a ?special?.?
BASC Scotland?s Dr Colin Shedden said there has actually been a long tradition of gamekeepers and stalkers becoming special constables in some areas: ?It is good to see at least one force in Scotland actually taking active steps to encourage such participation in rural areas. Let us not forget the active role that many other keepers and stalkers play in public service in Scotland, Mountain Rescue being the most obvious example.?
Gamekeepers have also embraced the recruitment drive.
Self-employed keeper, Stewart Blair, told Shooting Times magazine he is normally a bit of a cynic but thinks this is a step in the right direction: ?It?s about time that keepers are treated better than poachers, we?ve had a lot of bad press in recent years and I think that the chief constables have finally realised this. In my opinion, keepers have the necessary traits for being police officers. Generally speaking, they are resourceful, physically fit and very determined individuals.?
Kevin Grant is a keeper on Atholl Estates in Perthshire. He agreed that gamekeepers have the right attributes to become special constables: ?We are the eyes and ears of the countryside, so it makes sense for the keepering community to be targeted for this recruitment drive. I already know of a couple of keepers who are special constables and they both really enjoy the responsibility of helping to look after the community.?
For more details on applying to become a special constable, contact Central Scotland Police?s recruiting officer, Anne Johnstone, on 01786 456335 or visit www.centralscotland.police.uk