A DRAMATIC fall in the number of special police constables volunteering in the region has been recorded.
A freedom of information request to Police Scotland revealed 76 per cent less special constables working in the area in 2020 compared with 2013.
Year on year from 2013, when 117 trained volunteers assisted local police in Dumfries and Galloway, a drop has been noted. Figures for this year show just 29 individuals carrying out the role in the county.
Furthermore, recruitment of special constables has plummeted; 17 new volunteers were taken on in 2013, and none have been recruited so far this year.
Across Scotland in the past seven years since the formation of Police Scotland, the force has lost 876 of its 1387 special constables.
Galloway and West Dumfries MSP, Finlay Carson, said he was “deeply concerned” following the publication of the figures.
“The sharp fall in the number of Special Constables will not fill communities with confidence in the strength of local policing,” he said.
He stated that special constables “play a vital role as volunteer reserve police officers,” adding: “they provide an effective liaison between the regular police service and the general public, as such are rightly valued for their understanding and expertise in dealing with extremely localised issues.
“The failure to retain and recruit Special Constables has happened under the SNP Government’s watch, this is on the back of unacceptable delays to trials in Scottish courts this year too –yet another failure on the part of the Justice Secretary, who should address the shortfall in Special Constables as a matter of priority.”
Police Scotland’s Assistant Chief Constable, John Hawkins, said he recognised the “vital role Special Constables play in supporting conventional officers in a variety of policing duties.”
He added: “In particular, Special Constables responded overwhelmingly to an appeal for support during coronavirus, and have given tens of thousands of hours of their time since March.
“In addition to providing a service to their communities, Special Constables receive extensive training and develop skills that have both professional and personal benefits.
“Since April 2013 more than 500 people have left the Special Constables to become full-time officers and have either used the role as a valuable opportunity to gain experience, or realised that they want to pursue a career in policing.
“We also actively recruit and are always keen to welcome more Special Constables into the Service. In February, we launched a nationwide campaign to encourage more people to consider this opportunity to give something back to communities.
“If you are looking for a way to make a genuine difference in your community, please consider joining us as a Special Constable.”