THE HIGHLAND and islands’ most senior police officer said he was at a loss as to why the Shetland command area remains so unpopular among his officers.
Police Scotland looks to fill 10 vacant posts in the isles, which means the local force is operating at less than three quarters capacity.
Speaking to Shetland News on Friday, chief superintendent Julian Innes said it never had been easy to recruit officers to the isles as the posting is seen as “not particular popular”.
But he refuted any suggestion that the recruitment problems had anything to do with the merger of the eight regional police forces into one.
“I actually can’t quite put my finger on it, and I suppose if I could I might be able to sell Shetland better to officers.
“We find that officers from the western isles and Orkney are keen to return to the isles after some years of doing service on the Scottish mainland. That isn’t the case with Shetland,” he said.
There are now renewed efforts under way to attract officers from across the force to agree to a Shetland posting, and Innes is confident that this will bear some results.
He also appealed to islanders to respond to the current recruitment drive for new police officers.
He said only last week he had been challenged by the force’s chief constable Sir Stephen House to do everything he could to get the vacant posts filled.
But as officers serving in the western isles and Orkney often request to stay longer, Shetland’s real or perceived remoteness appears to be one of the factors why officers leave again as soon as they can.
He said: “What we are trying to do is to get some new officers up, we have two probationers from the Scottish Police College who are destined for Shetland.
“But I don’t want to put too many young and inexperienced police officer up to Shetland.
“Our effort just now is to getting officers with previous experience of working elsewhere in Scotland, to make sure we get a good balance that is appropriate for Shetland.”
Ask if this issue has been exacerbated by forming a single police force for Scotland, the chief superintendent said: “I don’t think the difficulty of getting officers up to Shetland has anything to do with Police Scotland, we have struggled on occasion to get people to all of the three island areas.”
And responding to concern in the community that more of the small island police stations could be earmarked for closure, Innes was adamant that there were no such plans.
“Police Scotland just now have no plans to close any police station. That is our current position.
“Even if the local police had a view about what is appropriate and whether police station should open or close; ultimately that decision would be taken by the Scottish policing board, and not local police,” he said.
Later on the same day, Police Scotland issued a list detailing changes to police station opening hours across the country. It can be found here.