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Concerns about 'cowboy cops' as Labour floats idea of volunteer rural constabulary

A barrage of burglars, honey thieves, livestock rustlers, and poachers have country cops stretched too thin and the government now wants to establish a volunteer constabulary.

Critics argue it's a dangerous idea and police should just put more paid and trained officers in the countryside. Source: 1 NEWS

Next year, police will investigate what those powers could be, what the patrols might look like, and what their duties would be.

"Whether it is just a slightly more advanced community watch or whether we give them some sort of power," Minister of Police Stuart Nash says of the plans.

However, the National Party is wary of the move.

"He needs to be really clear, will these cops be able to arrest people, will they be in uniform what sort of training are they going to be provided?" National's shadow police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

But the Labour-led Government says it could be modeled on the volunteer fire service.

"I know they aren't arresting people - but you'll find the vast majority of the work that a volunteer fire service is attending are road accidents and other incidents where you can't get professionals there on time," Mr Nash says.

Six thousand volunteers already carry out community patrols around the country, but they don't want greater powers.

And the Police Association argues it could be dangerous.

"Would they expect them to go forward into danger without the right equipment, the right training - those are the sort of things that probably makes this a pretty difficult ask," Police Association President Chris Cahill says.

National's Chris Bishop is also worried about "cowboy cops".

"What we don't want is a vigilante force of people running around the countryside arresting people willy nilly," Mr Bishop said.

But critics of the move do agree rural areas need more officers.

"There is a thinking out there that there is not enough officers they are too distant from them and there are not available as often they would like -some of those concerns and fear need to be addressed," Mr Cahill says.

But despite the controversy over the volunteer constabulary idea, the government is promising more full time police officers out in rural communities

"What may end up happening in some of these rural communities where there used to be a police officer but that officer has been retrenched you put an officer back there and in fact you negate the need for volunteer officers," Mr Nash says.

And he's hoping that a policy to recruit 1800 more officers will add substance to that thin blue line.