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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Only as ‘last resort’ should police get involved

15 July 2020

The Chair of the Police Federation wants police officers to be the ‘very last resort’ when enforcing the wearing of face coverings in retail stores and supermarkets in England.

These will become mandatory from 24 July, with those who fail to comply with the new rules set to face a fine of up to £100.

John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The announcement from Government that face coverings for those entering shops will be mandatory will, without doubt, add pressure to police officers who are already being stretched to the limit.

“The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope that will continue and the public will do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens.

“I would call on Government to ensure there is an obligation on all shops to make the wearing of face coverings a condition of entry. If not, individuals should not be allowed entry. Where possible retail outlets could provide face coverings for those who need them to help encourage compliance.

“Enforcement must be the very last resort and involve only those few individuals who blatantly ignore guidelines and are a clear health risk to others.

“Only as this last resort should the police get involved. To expect my colleagues to be policing the supermarket aisles, looking for those shoppers not wearing a face covering, is unrealistic and unfair.

“We simply don’t have the resources, and this would fundamentally undermine the model of policing which is to police by consent.

“Of course, there will be occasions where police will have to get involved, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. However, this should be the exception as police officers have more than enough to deal with by policing the pandemic and responding to the many other calls they receive.”

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair, Andy Roebuck added, “This is a Public Health crisis. We are in danger with making this a policing debacle and I am not in favour for Avon and Somerset Police Officers being required to “police” shopping aisles. The public have personal responsibility to adhere to the mandatory wearing of masks. Everyone has a part to play and as such that engaging, explaining and encouraging will be very important over the next few weeks and possibly months”.