As well as a new intake of 300 recruits starting at Police Scotland’s main training facility in Fife, dozens of special constables have also been on site, prompting a claim that the college is a “ticking time bomb” due to the threat of the deadly coronavirus, Covid-19.
Police Scotland said, however, that everything possible is being done to facilitate social distancing at the college and that the new recruits are vital to cope with the current emergency.
Eight hundred new recruits are being taken on by Police Scotland ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Three intakes have been planned for March, June and August this year, to ensure the number of officers are sufficient to police the United Nations’ conference which is due to be held in November.
The first intake of 300 recruits began training on 23 March at the Scottish Police College (SPC) at Tulliallan in Kincardine.
The Ferret understands that more than 500 people in total have been attending the college this week but they have not been forced to social distance to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, in line with new rules imposed on the general public by the UK government.
It is also claimed that recruits staying at the college have been socialising while other probationers can return home each evening, despite the risk of recruits spreading Covid-19.
A source told The Ferret: “Police Scotland have brought in over 300 new recruits this morning from all over Scotland to the police college at Tulliallan. There were no medical checks, there is no PPE (personal protective equipment), there is no social distancing.
“They will be permitted to go home and return every day for 11 weeks, transferring germs all over Scotland. Similar groups have been described as mass suicide so why are the police not leading by example? They have warned all training staff that they must not post about this on social media as they don’t want this information to get out. Please help stop this!”
The circumstances are far from ideal. DAVID HAMILTON, SCOTTISH POLICE FEDERATION
The source added: “There are special constables and people transferring from other forces also being trained, taking numbers to well over 500 on site. Classrooms are similar to school size and have around 30 crammed in with no way to keep two metres apart.
“Trainers have started to show signs of illness and are off, (but) still no medical staff or testing on site. Most probationers choosing to stay and mixing and socialising day and night. Described as chaos and a ticking time bomb.”
David Hamilton, chair of Scottish Police Federation, which represents police officers, said: “This emergency is set to continue for many months and Police Scotland simply cannot afford to drop its numbers – especially at this difficult time.
“The circumstances are far from ideal and I know the Chief Constable [Iain Livingston] would not choose to have these officers here unless he really had to. It was a dilemma that had to be faced.
Hamilton added: “I met the officers yesterday and have nothing but admiration for the personal risk that they are prepared to take to support policing in Scotland. We have been reassured by a number of mitigations put in place for them and we are all taking measures to minimise the risks to them and to others.”
According to Deputy Chief Constable, Fiona Taylor, Police Scotland has been planning for the intake of probationer officers for a “significant period of time”.
She said: “The classes who joined the organisation earlier this week will play a crucial role in supporting their colleagues in division who are facing unprecedented demand in the coming days, weeks and months as a result of the ongoing, and constantly evolving, public health situation.”
Taylor added that as a result of the “current, exceptional circumstances” Police Scotland felt it was essential that the intake continued as planned.
“Every possible measure has been taken to facilitate social distancing at SPC Tulliallan in order to keep probationers and staff as safe as we can,” she told The Ferret.
“These steps include eliminating the need for probationers to share bedrooms and closing the gym at SPC Tulliallan. We recognise the potential vulnerability but we need to make sure we are resilient, we are strong in the days, weeks and months ahead and we have new recruits coming in.”
The UK is currently on lockdown with the general public told to stay at home in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus. Police Scotland are being given new powers, and have said they would not hesitate to use them if people ignored new rules and did not stay in their homes.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone warned people against disobeying the advice and said legislation to give police far-reaching powers was being passed through parliament.