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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

PFEW Conference: Fed Chair left disappointed in explanation from Home Secretary over lack of officer vaccine priority

10 June 2021

The Chair of Avon and Somerset Police Federation said he was disappointed in the Home Secretary and Policing Minister’s explanations of why officers were not prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine - especially considering the large number of officers working at this weekend’s G7 Summit.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse were speaking at the Police Federation Annual Conference, and Ms Patel said: "We absolutely had to prioritise the vaccine rollout in line with the overriding risk factors of age and clinical vulnerability."

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair Iain Prideaux said: “OK, they were led by the science, but that was a little disappointing for me. Part of the strategy for vaccinating all cops was so that when there were these big events this year, like the G7, like the COP26, like the Euros, you can go knowing that your staff are all vaccinated.

“Here we are, in the middle of the G7 at the moment, and we saw a police officer on the video who was 26 years of age, concerned that officers were coming from environments where the Indian variant was quite prevalent and she wasn’t vaccinated herself.”

But Iain said that on other areas the Home Secretary seemed to be more supportive of police officers than previous incumbents.

He said: “Priti Patel has been in the role for a while now, so you can have meaningful conversations around the uplift, the Covenant, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, because it’s on her watch. I got a sense that she actually gets it.

“What you did hear, which we haven’t heard very often from a Home Secretary, was how engaged she was, how supportive she was, and for example how she wants to push for changes with the IOPC taking so long over their investigations. 

“It was also good to see that she backed our call to release body-worn footage to help deal with the misinformation that often proliferates through social media.”

PFEW Chair John Apter gave a keynote speech at the conference, which Iain felt raised some important points.

Iain said: “It was good to see John talk about officers still being spat at, still being coughed at – it all ties in with us being seen by the public as the villains around the COVID-19 enforcement rules. It was good to see him stand up and say that’s disgusting, and he recognised the sacrifice not just by colleagues but by our families as well, because we have to go back to husbands, wives and children.

“I’m glad that John drew out the fact that we can see a doubling of the sentences for assaults on emergency workers to a maximum of two years, and it was good that he was pushing on that – that he wants magistrates to show some leadership around it and to be on the front foot in terms of sentencing.”

Iain added that it was “really great” that Avon and Somerset Chief Inspector Sharon Baker was given the Women In Policing Award for bravely speaking out about her personal experiences of domestic abuse.

He said: “It was really great that Cressida Dick said such nice things about Sharon and that our Chief Constable Andy Marsh said some really supportive things too. We as a branch will be looking to work with Sharon to develop a pledge that the force can support to help victims of domestic abuse, our staff and our officers, to come forward confidently and report it.

“We were also pleased to see two Avon and Somerset officers recognised as nominees for Bravery Awards and their pictures shown at the Conference.”