Police officers suspended from duty under disciplinary procedures have been reinstated, in a drive by the new national force to trim its £1 million “gardening leave” bill.
Police Scotland would not say how many were involved or what accusations they faced, but, amid savings targets, the force is keen to make the most of taxpayers’ money.
Since its launch, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson has reviewed many of the 26 outstanding cases and decided some should be reinstated.
He told the Scottish Police Federation: “No-one should read into that that we are going soft.
“If people are not suspended, there will still be – in order to ensure the welfare of staff and the public – restrictions on individuals that will have to be regularly monitored and it will be commanders taking on this responsibility.”
This could see an officer suspected of theft given restricted access to storage areas, or someone facing allegations of computer misuse being blocked from the police system.
The force said a number of officers had also resigned following Mr Richardson’s review.
Police Scotland inherited a bill of almost £90,000 a month for the wages of suspended officers following the merger on 1 April of the eight former forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mr Richardson said: “The transition provided the opportunity to review these cases.
“My priorities were around the application of consistency and clarity for people.
“Nothing has changed in terms of the specifics of the cases. What has changed is the ability to apply a single set of criteria around officers who are subject to ongoing inquiry and their status in terms of their roles and suspension.
“That does not mean the decision to suspend officers in the first place was wrong – but different criteria had been applied and we are seeking absolute consistency across Scotland.
“Each case will be dealt with on its own merits and restrictions applied will be commensurate with the individual circumstances of each case.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont was concerned at the lack of information about the officers, the allegations they face and their new duties.
He said: “Moving to a single force was a chance for the police to be more transparent about such dealings. Taxpayers deserve to know what’s going on – particularly when you consider the cost involved.”
It is understood the case of John Mauger, a former assistant chief constable of Central Scotland who has been suspended on full pay since July 2010, remains unresolved. He is believed to have received more than £250,000 from the public purse.
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which is looking for savings of £60 million, has to authorise the reinstatement of anyone of assistant chief constable rank or above, but Police Scotland can act over more junior officers without SPA approval.