MORE than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of an officer from Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team (RCT) after it was claimed she had ridden out with hunts she could end up policing.
In February, PC Cheryl Knight posted on the RCT Facebook page that she had joined the team.
She wrote of her ‘interest in all things equestrian’, which was soon highlighted by Facebook users.
Photographs were posted which – alleged to have been posted by PC Knight on a personal social media profile – appeared to show her riding out with the Avon Vale Hunt.
The hunt, based in Lacock, recently hit the headlines when video footage emerged appearing to show members digging up a fox from its den before being thrown to the hounds.
Wiltshire Police has arrested five people in connection with the video.
The Avon Vale Hunt has also been banned from the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), with ‘individual members’ also sanctioned by the body.
After PC Knight’s post unveiling her role with the RCT, Wiltshire Police posted a response on social media, saying comments from the public ‘deserve an answer’.
“It is not illegal for someone working for a police force to be affiliated with a hunt organisation,” they said.
“We wouldn’t comment on alleged affiliations or membership of individual officers to any hunt but images and captions used in the replies to this post are between four and 15+ years old and are not representative of the officer’s current role.
“We do expect all of our officers regardless of rank or role to carry out their duties impartially, without fear or favour.
“We will act impartially and will not hesitate to take appropriate action against any organisation, group or individual who break the law.”
However, commentors have questioned PC Knight’s appointment, citing the College of Policing Code of Ethics, which states, under the ‘Duties and responsibilities’ heading: “Membership of groups or societies, or associations with groups or individuals, must not create an actual or apparent conflict of interest with police work or responsibilities.”
It adds: “The test is whether a reasonably informed member of the public might reasonably believe that your membership or association could adversely affect your ability to discharge your policing duties effectively and impartially.”
And the appointment has been slammed by many of those signing the petition.
“How on earth can she be impartial, Wiltshire police have shown very poor judgement,” said one.
Another said: “She should never have received this appointment. Absolutely ludicrous to have a hunt member part of this team.”
“If ever there was a conflict of interest it is in appointing PC Cheryl Knight as a Rural Crime Officer when she clearly has connections to the Avon Vale Hunt and the Beaufort Hunt. This appointment is outrageous,” said another.