AS the second year of the badger cull approaches Gloucestershire Police has promised a more community focused method in their response to the cull.
Operation Themis, the police response to the cull, has been up and running for the past few weeks in anticipation that the cull will restart at any point.
During a press briefing at the constabulary HQ in Waterwells on Thursday senior officers’ were unable to say when this year’s culling would begin in Gloucestershire as they are not the body responsible for the cull and it is therefore not their information to give out.
Last year the cull cost the public £2,338,248 – a sum which has since been reimbursed to the force by the Home Office.
However the monetary cost was only one of the issues facing the constabulary last year as they attempted to police the unique operation.
A year on and officers in Gloucestershire and Somerset are preparing for the second year of the cull, which aims to put an end to the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
According to the operation commanders this year the police are focusing on a community approach which they hope will enable them to keep the peace between all the various parties when the cull takes place.
Gloucestershire Police suffered criticism from anti-cull protestors last year who claimed officers were working too closely with the cull operator Gloscon.
However, assistant chief constable for operations Richard Berry, has re-iterated the impartiality of the police in relation to the badger cull and that it would not be providing 'private security' for anyone involved in the private event.
He compared it to the policing operation at a football match where it is the responsibility of the match organiser to ensure people remain safe while the police are there to stop any criminal activity.
Last week the High Court dismissed the Badger Trust’s attempt to halt the second year of the cull despite the fact it will be going ahead without an independent observer.
As a result anti-cull protestors in Gloucestershire are once again preparing to patrol the cull zones at night in search of wounded animals.
Last year they were reported to have disrupted traps, which is considered a criminal offence.
Slad resident Jeanne Berry, who is a spokesman for Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, said: “GABS representatives have been meeting with the police for well over a year to try to assist them in their difficult role of policing the cull.
“We are however now at the end of our tether as at our most recent meeting with their representatives they have said that the police have no role in maintaining public safety during the cull.
“This appears to be a very worrying shift in the policing of the cull which could have serious safety implications for those operating and opposing the cull as well as local people and we are asking the police to re-consider their position.
“We certainly don’t want Gloucestershire police to be in the headlines as a result of another police failure.”
Gloucestershire Constabulary will also be bringing in fewer officers from outside forces this year – however any officers that are brought in through mutual aid will come from similar community forces in the south west rather than the Met.
Chief Inspector Charlie Laporte, the officer in charge of tactical operations, said: "Our operation this year will be more community-focused and we will have different officers based in those towns and rural areas around the cull zones."