22 February 2021
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton called for “crystal clear” guidance for police officers when the latest lockdown restrictions are eased.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today (Monday) expected to announce a “roadmap” for easing Covid-19 measures in England.
Tony urged the Government to ensure there was clarity around the guidance so that officers and the public “know where we stand”.
He pointed to the fines issued to two women who visited Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire at the start of the latest lockdown, which were later withdrawn, as an example of why officers need clarity with the new rules.
“That incident highlighted the difficulties my colleagues face when it comes to policing the pandemic,” he said, “We’re doing our absolute best to protect the public and the NHS during the pandemic.
“However, we’re often treading a very fine line in upholding the law while maintaining public confidence because of a lack of clear guidance and instruction. We need the Government to make it crystal clear what it expects from the public and exactly what is and isn’t allowed so that we all know where we stand and my colleagues are able to do their jobs with confidence when the rules are breached.”
Tony’s comments come as new research published by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) showed only one in 10 police officers in England and Wales thought the police powers previously introduced to manage the Covid-19 crisis were clear.
The demand, capacity and welfare survey also found only 24 per cent of respondents felt the ‘Four E’s’ (engage, explain, encourage and enforce) approach was effective when enforcing the new police powers.
National Federation chair John Apter said: “Given the fact there have been more than 60 rule changes introduced during the pandemic, it comes as no surprise whatsoever that only 10 per cent of police officers who responded to our survey said they found the Covid-19 rule changes to be clear.
“We have been saying from the beginning, clear guidance on what people can and can’t do is needed; otherwise people will inadvertently fall foul of the law or may take advantage of the mixed messages. And it’s my colleagues who are on the frontline of these changes, continually playing catch-up to get their heads around the latest information.”
The new report also contains a number of personal testimonies from frontline officers, including those who have contracted Covid-19 while on duty, and those who’ve faced the virus being weaponised against them.
Almost a third of respondents (32 per cent) reported that a member of the public, believed to be carrying Covid-19, had purposely threatened to breathe or cough on them at least once over the past six months; with nearly a quarter reporting actual attempts at doing so.
In addition, 26 per cent of respondents believed they had already had Covid-19, and 45 per cent of these felt they had contracted the virus through work-related activities.
“I suggest the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Governments of England and Wales read this report very carefully,” John added, “Then they can attempt to explain to my colleagues on the frontline why, after the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, they should not be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination.”