Police bosses in Gloucestershire have come out in defence of officers enforcing restrictions on the public during the latest lockdown.
Measures imposed in the latest lockdown have placed a ‘significant’ burden on police officers and have put them in an almost ‘impossible’ position, according to the Gloucestershire Police Federation.
Chairman Steve James said the details of the rules and regulations for lockdown 3 are different from previous measures and stretch to 50,000 words, all of which have to be remembered and applied by officers.
“The Government has implemented yet another set of lockdown regulations, that again are different from all previous regulations and again were landed on the police service with virtually no warning,” Mr James said.
“A return to lockdown has placed a significant burden on people across all sectors of society, and yet again a further burden on all already stretched police forces.
“This is in places complex legislation, at times stretching to 50,000 words, that police officers have had to digest and learn to apply, literally overnight.
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“This is an impossible situation to place officers in, and the public and media should not be in any way surprised when that is applied differently across the country.”
Yesterday (January 12) Home Secretary Priti Patel held a No. 10 press briefing where she addressed incidents of coronavirus breaches and said a minority were “putting the health of the nation at risk” by flouting rules.
She added police are “moving more quickly to issuing fines”, with nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices issued across the UK.
At the briefing, Ms Patel said: “My message today to anyone refusing to do the right thing is simple: if you do not play your part, our selfless police officers – who are out there risking their own lives every day to keep us safe – they will enforce the regulations.
“And I will back them to do so, to protect our NHS and to save lives.”
‘No-one is living in a police state‘
Chairman Steve James added: “The anti-police rhetoric is seeking to make unsupportive and at times, inflammatory examples of one or two incidents, when there are thousands of supportive COVID-related interactions between the police and public daily.
“The regulations have been put in place to help save lives by restricting people’s movements and hindering the spread of this virus. One of the primary duties of the police is to save life and prevent harm. There should not be surprised when officers, therefore, look to enforce legislation that is designed to do exactly that.
“This isn’t the police looking to ‘clamp down on freedoms’ or ‘revelling in new powers’, and certainly no-one is ‘living in a police state’.
“Believe me, there is not a single police officer I know who wants to be in a position to have to use these powers, and we will all more than happily hand them back when this pandemic subsides.
“But we do want to keep people safe, and as long as there are those who put public health at risk by flaunting these regulations, then I will happily support officers who enforce the regulations against those individuals.”
The Federation is backing national calls to get police officers a place in the vaccination queue as the Government has so far not given any indication of when they might expect to get the crucial jab.
“Whilst our officers are out there keeping the public safe, we also want to keep our officers safe and help them to be able to keep doing their jobs,” Steve said.
“This is why the Federation has been pressing for the prioritisation for COVID vaccine for officers. This isn’t about leapfrogging vulnerable groups such as the elderly, but it’s about recognising the risk that officers are being faced with on a daily basis.”
Officers mix and deal with the public every day, meaning they are very much at the forefront of the pandemic and deserve protection, Steve added.
“All we’re asking is some protection for officers from the worst effects of the virus.
“The increased infection rate that is being seen nationally is also being seen in police forces, and there is a very real risk that the increasing absence of police officers with either illness or in isolation could begin to impact on the service we provide to our communities and our ability to keep people safe,” he said.
“Therefore, we continue to ask for the Government to prioritise vaccinations for police officers.”
On Sunday it was reported mounted police were deployed to help enforce lockdown measures, sending people back to areas such as Bristol and Wales.
Gloucestershire Constabulary response
Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said: “The dedication of our frontline officers and staff in applying the law with consistency and fairness throughout our response to the pandemic has been outstanding and we recognise the risks they may be putting themselves in when attending incidents
“We are feeding back to Government that our frontline staff should be vaccinated as soon as possible and welcome their commitment to prioritise frontline workers once the most vulnerable groups have been completed.
“In terms of what we do when restrictions are changed by Government, our officers are briefed on those changes at the earliest opportunity and we have a number of measures in place to make sure they understand and can implement the legislation effectively.
“This can be challenging at times but our staff have become well versed at adapting when required and making sure we respond appropriately to reports of Covid breaches.
“The public in Gloucestershire has been incredibly supportive of our actions throughout and we expect this to continue as we encourage everyone to keep to the rules at this critical time for our hospitals and the health of our residents.”