POLICE officers with links to hunts or anti-hunt groups will not be allowed to join Wiltshire’s Rural Crime Team, it has been announced.
Wiltshire Police has revealed the findings of an internal review of the team, which has seen the introduction of new rules to ‘ensure the suitability of our personnel working within the unit’.
It comes after the appointment of PC Cheryl Knight to the team in February provoked outrage from some, as she had previous links to hunts in the county, including the Avon Vale Hunt, which was later banned from the British Hound Sports Association.
The force has declined to comment on individuals, but said the new policy had ‘resulted in some staffing changes’.
It said some decisions made had ‘distracted from the crucial work the team do’.
“As with all functions of policing, we regularly review our resourcing and policing approach to ensure we can provide the best possible service to the public,” a force spokesperson said.
“To this end, we commissioned an internal review of our Rural Crime Team (RCT), which has resulted in us establishing a framework to ensure the suitability of our personnel working within the unit.
“The new framework will provide more scrutiny around the suitability of our officers, staff and volunteers to work within the unit.
“It sets out key principles to ensure staff do not have personal links to hunts past or present, do not have links to any anti-hunt groups past or present and requires staff disclose links to any rural based hobby or initiative that could potentially call into question their policing impartiality.
“This has already resulted in some staffing changes although it would not be appropriate for us to comment on individual cases.”
They added no officers on the unit had been found to have breached legislation or guidance.
“Although it is important to stress that, to date, none of our colleagues in the unit (past or present) have been found to have breached legislation or guidance, we accept that some resourcing decisions we made as an organisation have distracted from the crucial work the team do,” they said.
“We appreciate there has been considerable public scrutiny regarding this team however, the action we have taken should reassure our communities that we will continue to police without fear or favour and, when appropriate, we will respond pragmatically to concerns when they are raised.”