Wildlife crime officer post axed
FEARS were raised last night about Essex Police's monitoring of hunting after the force scrapped a specialist wildlife crime post.Pc Barry Kaufmann-Wright, a key figure in the policing of hunting in Essex, said he was “gutted” about the shock move to scrap his post, which he had held for 18 years, and felt he had no other option but to resign.
FEARS were raised last night about Essex Police's monitoring of hunting after the force scrapped a specialist wildlife crime post.
Pc Barry Kaufmann-Wright, a key figure in the policing of hunting in Essex, said he was “gutted” about the shock move to scrap his post, which he had held for 18 years, and felt he had no other option but to resign.
He said he was told on Wednesday the new Chief Constable, Roger Baker, wanted more officers on the beat and it was felt his specialist post, which also dealt with hare coursers and badger baiters and other wildlife crime, could no longer be justified.
The 55-year-old, who was named Britain's wildlife crime officer of the year in 2003, said returning to street policing at his age was not an option and he felt he had no other choice than to resign as of next Monday.
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It means that the team of 15 part-time officers that he leads will be deprived of decades of experience and their main contact point with numerous wildlife groups with which he had forged good relations.
Mr Kaufmann-Wright, who is based at the Chelmsford headquarters and is married with four grown-up children, said: “After 33 years' service, I'm gutted and very bitterly disappointed about what's happened - it's come like a bolt out of the clue.
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“I've built up a good role in the force which is popular with the public and in particular the rural community that we are meant to be caring for.
“I was meant to be involved in a big meeting at headquarters about the new hunting season soon, but obviously I won't be giving my input now.
“I don't know what's going to happen to the officers, but without me, they'll have a problem because I'm the specialist with all the knowledge.”
Renee Hockley-Byam, chairman of the North East Essex Badger Group, said yesterday: “I'm so angry about this. It sends out a signal that Essex Police do not care about wildlife.
“Barry's an expert in complicated badger law and he was the person who the other officers went to for advice and clarification. The ordinary bobby who turns up when we have a problem doesn't really know anything.
“With the new hunt season coming up, it shows what priority Essex Police is going to place on catching huntsmen.”
An Essex Police spokeswoman said that as part of a crackdown on crime and disorder, more than 20 officers currently based in support roles would be moved to front line duties from August 1.
Confirming the wildlife liaison post was one of those to be scrapped, she said Pc Kaufmann-Wright had been offered an alternative role.
Assistant Chief Constable (Personnel) Andy Bliss said the force employed a number of specialist wildlife officers in each of the divisions, but added that Pc Kaufmann-Wright's part-time headquarters-based role could no longer be justified.
He said: “Balancing the need for this headquarters' post against our commitment to deploying more officers on the beat, we decided that it was more important to have additional officers out on the streets helping to drive down crime.
“What we have decided is no reflection on Pc Kaufmann-Wright.”