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23 March 2020
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales has raised concerns with Home Secretary Priti Patel and the National Police Chiefs' Council about the ‘significant confusion’ over the prospect of police officers enforcing coronavirus restrictions.
John Apter highlighted a ‘lack of clarity’ in some of the messages coming from Government and policing bodies on the role of officers in tackling the crisis.
He said: “While accepting this is a fast-changing unprecedented situation, there is confusion over some messaging, not only from certain parts of the national and local Government but from within policing itself.
“We want to do the right thing, but clarification is needed. We welcome the Home Secretary’s decision that enforcing the closing of pubs, cafés etc is a matter for local authorities and not the police.
“Clearly if there is a need for police to attend then we will, but ultimately this is a local authority matter and police should not be the first port of call.”
Mr Apter also revealed a ‘considerable’ number of officers are self-isolating, and strongly re-iterated calls to urgently test police for the virus.
He continued: "This massively impacts our ability to police. If they were tested, we could identify officers who don't have the virus and can go back to policing quickly - it also gives them the reassurance they need.”
While officers throughout the country have received widespread praise for their response to the outbreak, Mr Apter said that: “Despite what some people say, it is not business as usual. We are policing by crisis and things are going to get worse.”
He also reinforced his top priority was the provision of protective equipment for officers which he described as “patchwork around the country".
“I absolutely understand that we are in a time of crisis, but it would be wrong of me not to raise these concerns on behalf of frontline police officers who just want to do the job to the best of their ability,” he concluded.