PROPATIONARY police officers are to be brought in to help deal with the impact of staff shortages in Ayrshire.

Police Scotland is deploying more than 500 officers to support local policing divisions due to high levels of Covid-related absences across the country’s forces.

They say that 300 officers from specialist functions will be brought in and 258 probationary constables currently undergoing training at the Scottish Police College will also be deployed to local policing divisions.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “We are working hard to maximise the availability of officers and staff in frontline duties to ensure that we continue to provide a highly effective policing service to our local communities.

“Omicron is having a significant effect on the country and Police Scotland is included in that.

“The welfare of our officers and staff is paramount and has been throughout the pandemic.

“As a national service we can quickly flex resources and move people to where they are needed and respond to increased demand and high absence levels.

“By deploying these extra resources we can support local policing and keep people safe during this critical time.”

Ayr Advertiser: Assistant chief constable Alan SpeirsAssistant chief constable Alan Speirs

It’s not the first time probationers have been used to bolster the forces numbers, with the trainees being brought in earlier in the pandemic and also for the COP26 event in Glasgow.

In the week ending December 29, 1,701 officers were off due to Covid-related reasons.

This was an increase of 450 (36 per cent) on the previous week.

The police are not the only emergency service to be experiencing such shortages: according to NHS Ayrshire and Arran, last week there were close to 200 Covid-related absences in the area’s hospitals, highlighting the effect the Omicron variant is having on front line workers.