5 January 2021
In today’s Daily Telegraph, National Chair John Apter continued to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ensure colleagues receive priority access to Covid-19 vaccines after the most vulnerable members of society and the NHS. The full version is below:
As the elected chair of an organisation which represents 130,000 rank and file police officers across England and Wales, I am calling on the Prime Minister and his Government to do the right thing and urgently ensure my colleagues receive priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
What we do as police officers creates a real vulnerability for my colleagues. We put the public first and foremost, responding to 999 calls, investigating crimes, helping those in crisis.
Police officers are out and about, selflessly dealing face to face with members of the public, because policing isn’t just about dealing with trouble and disorder, it’s also about helping people in their time of need, and it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job.
This is not about putting police officers before the most vulnerable and elderly in society or those on the frontline of the NHS. However, without the vaccine there is a real danger that more police officers will contract the virus, be off sick, spread it to their families and the general public, and thereby threaten the resilience of the police service across the UK.
As growing numbers of my colleagues self-isolate or report sick with the virus, then the police service begins to struggle to do what the public fully expects of it. Some forces are already starting to report up to 15 per cent of their officers off sick or self-isolating.
This is getting worse and is simply not sustainable. We don’t have an endless box of police officers to deal with the regular daily demands, let alone the additional demands that policing the pandemic creates.
The non-Covid-related demands on policing are back at the levels they were before the pandemic and in some locations even higher. Surely, the last thing the Government wants is a police service unable to police as needed; and the last thing the public want is to call 999 in their hour of need, only to find we are short of officers to be able to respond how we would like.
There’s little doubt the new variant has increased alarm among society and rightly so. There’s also a growing number of people who are ignoring or flouting the rules, and we’ve seen some disgraceful and irresponsible behaviour, such as large parties and gatherings over the New Year, with people standing outside hospitals without masks shouting that the virus is a hoax.
At the same time as they were 'protesting’ there were people inside seriously ill or dying because of this virus, and it’s left to police officers to deal with these reckless individuals.
We also have some who intentionally spit and cough at my colleagues and try to intimidate and assault them while claiming to have the virus. This is vile at any time, but to weaponise Covid against police officers is an absolute disgrace. Yet it is a very real threat.
Police officers were given basic PPE because of the job we do, so why not the vaccine too?
On Christmas Day I was deployed to a custody centre where I had to take a prisoner to hospital after he became unwell and sat with him for several hours in a hospital setting where everyone around me was in full PPE. I did the best I could to protect myself with what I had, but I was in a vulnerable position. Thousands of my colleagues face the same every day.
While I appreciate it’s difficult for the Government because every sector will feel they are a priority, I urge the Prime Minister to look at the facts. The National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Police Federation of England and Wales and others within policing have supplied clear evidence as to why police officers should be a priority for the vaccine.
It is about protecting officers and in turn protecting the public and the NHS.
That’s why I am making this plea directly to the Prime Minister to do the right thing. If the virus continues to spread as we have seen with the new strain, I genuinely fear we will not be able to police in the way we want to, as the resources will not be there and we will not have the capacity to match demand.
Police officers need to know this Government values them and appreciates the vitally important role they undertake for the public, and I make no apology for speaking out on their behalf and asking to make them a priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.