ROOKIE cops on Christmas leave from training college will provide a “much needed boost” to policing in the Capital during the festive season.
Fifty young apprentices – just weeks into their training at the Scottish Police College – will pair up with more experienced beat staff during one of the busiest policing periods of the year.
The groundbreaking initiative will see fresh-faced constables join regular officers in the fight against alcohol-fuelled disorder and pick-pocketing - crimes that rocket at this time of year. They will have power of arrest as they shadow their more experienced colleagues on the frontline.
City police commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said the new recruits would support the 100 or so police already deployed across the city, a figure unchanged from previous years. However the step has attracted criticism and claims it is simply further evidence of how badly stretched Police Scotland is.
Despite this, Chief Supt Williams hailed the unique step, and said: “We have a lot of officers currently training at the police college, young probationers who have just joined.
“Over 50 of them will be deployed with full-time staff to support the policing numbers in the city. This is a huge increase and really fantastic asset to be able to access for the city. They’re young officers going through training and will provide a much-needed boost to police numbers.”
But the move has sparked criticism from some for putting trainees “in the thick of it”.
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart, a former policeman, said: “I would not have wanted to be on the street after only a couple of weeks’ training, especially at a time when the alcohol can be flowing. This feels a bit like policing on the cheap.”
Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said it looked like further evidence that the police are being stretched.
“We know Police Scotland have effectively made traffic wardens redundant and are making police officers do that job; we know police officers are delivering citations; it’s no wonder we end up with some of the most inexperienced officers having to deal with some of the most challenging situations. There’s also a risk it’s going to leave people feeling a little bit insecure.”
Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said: “If this is a case of giving vital experience to the next generation of officers, while providing extra capacity on the streets, that is to be welcomed. However, if they are being brought in to plug gaps it’s a different story altogether.
“That would be completely unfair on the young officers involved, more experienced officers who may have to compensate, and most of all the taxpayers whose safety would be placed at risk.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Human Rights Commission said it did not contravene their rights as they were sworn constables. And a former senior chief said it resembled a move back to traditional policing when officers learned on the job before going to college.
He said: “If you have been in just one week or 25 years, members of the public expect the same from you. Once you have the uniform on, you have to expect to deal with everything. This will be fantastic experience for them.”
Recruits to the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan have to be aged 18 or over. The basic training period lasts 12 weeks. Officers taking part in Operation Astrodome – the force’s Christmas policing campaign – could be at any point in their three-month stint.