CALLS have been made for Scotland's new police force to clamp down on officers retiring as a means of avoiding disciplinary action.

Opposition politicians, including the former leader of the force responsible for fighting organised crime, say the tactic undermines public confidence and are demanding action.

Figures obtained by The Herald under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request reveal that over the past five years 12 officers have left their jobs ahead of facing complaints.

Officers can lose part of their pension if they are found guilty of very serious misconduct while on duty.

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee and former director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said: "In cases where officers face serious criminal charges, I believe an option to retire ahead of the conclusion of the case is wrong.

"In these cases it should be for the authorities to decide whether it is appropriate for an individual to access full pension."

Scotland's eight regional forces will be replaced by the new Police Service of Scotland next April, and the Scottish Conservatives have called for new guidelines to be introduced in the new single force.

Tory justice spokesman David McLetchie said: "Although these numbers are low relative to the total serving in our police forces, they remain a matter of concern.

"The single Scottish police force needs to establish guidelines as soon as is practical to bring these figures into line."

Officers are allowed to keep their pension in the vast majority of cases, even after facing disciplinary action. Only when they have committed a very serious offence while on duty will they lose out, and even then they will keep the amount they contributed (around 35%). They can only retire when they reach the end of their service – when they have completed 30 years or are over 50 with at least 25 years of service.

Officers can resign at any point and the pension they have amassed until then will be paid out when they reach 60.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie MSP, has now urged the Scottish Government to review the issue.

He said: "Too many officers are dodging disciplinary action by retiring from the police.

"This is frustrating for those who have been affected by misconduct by police officers and undermines public confidence in the police.

"Such officers should not be allowed to evade punishment, and the Government needs to review this matter urgently."

The FoI request also revealed 153 serving police officers have been convicted of an offence in the last five years. The majority were driving offences, but others included convictions for fraud, violence, firearms offences and breaches of the peace. At least 90 officers have been accused of breaching data protection laws in the last year (2011-12), with 39 of these officers coming from Tayside Police.

Mr Pearson added: "Many offences reported here will be low-level motoring convictions and the type of circumstance that has no real implications in terms of an officer's ability to do the job. Where, however, dishonesty, violence and criminal conduct indicating an absence of integrity is present, I would expect those convicted to be dismissed.

"At the same time, those officers found to abuse computer databases and criminal intelligence sources should have no future in the police service."

Tayside Police said of the 39 officers accused of breaching data protection laws, only three resulted in misconduct procedures. A spokesman said: "Thirteen allegations were unsubstantiated, three were resolved by way of satisfactory explanation and in a further 13 the procurator-fiscal decided to take no action."