POLICE officers claim they are being threatened with the sack if they do not hit "targets" for the number of people stopped and searched under anti-terror laws.
Two serving British Transport Police (BTP) officers have told the News of increasing pressure to undertake the searches brought in after last year's attack on Glasgow Airport attack, with at least 30-a-day at city train stations.
The insiders claim that officers are being given unofficial daily targets by supervisors. And they have told how the searches were diverting them from other roles.
They also claim officers have:
• Resorted to stopping schoolboys, pensioners and even priests to make up the numbers.
• Been told to take names from the phone book where people have not given their personal details.
• Been warned they will face disciplinary action if they do not stop enough people.
In one apparent internal e-mail passed to the News – which the whistleblowers claim was sent to all senior Scottish BTP officers across Scotland from a Glasgow-based Inspector Vincent Smith – the importance of ensuring officers are carrying out the searches is stressed after just ten people were stopped in one day across the whole country.
It states: "(Assistant Chief Constable] Pacey has indicated officers not complying with his instructions will be moved from their posts or even disciplined to the level of losing their jobs."
The BTP today said that it had no record of this specific e-mail but admitted that Insp Smith and ACC Pacey had sent a number of e-mails encouraging officers to carry out their duties under the anti-terror laws. It also insisted no "specified targets" existed.
Politicians and campaign groups said the claims raised serious human rights issues.
One of the officers, who asked to not be named, said: "This has really affected morale and I know a lot officers are uncomfortable with what seems to be a near obsession with stop and search.
"At the start of the shift, officers are told by supervisors 'I need you to do say five or six today' and questions are asked if you're not achieving this. My worry is they seem to be using them as fishing exercises for other things like drugs and weapons but using terrorism laws as a catch-all power."
He said several officers had raised objections to the prolific use of the powers, which has seen over 4000 people stopped at Haymarket and Waverley stations since last July.
The officer added: "You have officers stopping grannies or 15-year-old children and it is just embarrassing. They are so focused on keeping the numbers up and making sure the paperwork is up to date. People have been told to just get names out of the phone book so forms are completed."
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said: "I have no objection to intelligence-led stop and searches but I am appalled at the idea officers are working to some sort of quota.
"I will be pressing the justice minister to see if he is aware of this matter and to see if he will pass on my concerns to the UK Government."
A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "If these claims are true then it is disturbing."
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill said: "I've already had a very useful meeting with ACC David McCall and others from BTP where I expressed my concerns about the high use of stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
"I welcomed their decision to undertake a review on their use of these powers and look forward to seeing the BTP's findings."
A BTP spokesman said: "We have not seen the e-mail you state was sent by Inspector Smith on 27 July 2007. We are aware he has sent a number of e-mails in respect of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 encouraging officers to carry out their duties. He has also clearly stated that there are no specified targets.
"ACC Pacey, who has responsibility for ensuring counter terrorism policing is carried out effectively throughout the rail network, has also said it must be treated seriously."
THE special stop and search powers were introduced across the UK in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport in June.
The powers allow officers to search anyone at random and seize anything that may be used in connection with terrorism.
They have proved so contentious because statistics obtained by the News last year showed people from some ethnic minorities have a higher chance of being stopped than the city's predominantly white population.
Also, Scotland's other eight police forces used the powers for a brief period after the Glasgow attacks but did not seek to extend their use, ruling they were "no longer proportionate".