Police Federation

PFEW highlights the complexity of pandemic policing

14 March 2021

Several hundred people gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday to pay their respects to 33-year-old Sarah Everard. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Reflecting on the criticism of policing at the event on Saturday evening, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) would like to draw attention to the impossible situation our members face when trying to protect the public during a worldwide pandemic.

The vigil itself had been called off earlier in the day after organisers could not agree on how to run the event in a Covid compliant way. However, individuals attended Clapham Common throughout the day and into the evening to pay their respects.

The escalation of events in the evening as the crowd increased, resulted in 26 Metropolitan police officers being assaulted.

National Vice Chair Ché Donald said:

“I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Everard at this incredibly sad and challenging time. We were all shocked by the tragic news of the discovery of Sarah Everard’s body and the subsequent arrest and charging of a serving police officer over her kidnapping and murder.

“This is an emotive crime which has stimulated a wider public debate around the personal safety of women in public spaces and associated violence directed against them, which we condemn. The ensuing issues that have arisen following police attendance at the vigil for Sarah Everard has highlighted the complexity of policing in the current climate when the rights of individuals to pay their respects, have to be balanced with that of protecting the public from an escalating situation and enforcing the law.

“Policing during lockdown is a no-win situation for front line police officers trying to protect the public, they are damned if they do take action and damned if they don’t. Ultimately front-line officers have become pawns in a political situation.

“There is a need to reiterate the call for clarity around Covid-19 regulations to avoid further confusion over laws and rules when lockdown measures are lifted. The Government’s mixed messages added to the escalation of events on Saturday.”

The Federation is supportive of an independent report into the events of Saturday evening to bring clarity to the situation. However, calls to vote down the new police, crime, sentencing and courts Bill tomorrow in parliament would, in our opinion, be an error in judgement. The Bill contains a number of important changes we have been campaigning for over many years to give greater protection to police officers whilst recognising the unpredictable, dangerous and demanding job they do.

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