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Sussex Police Federation

The Police Federation outline clear and unambiguous position on PPE for officers

9 April 2020

The Police Federation has outlined its “clear and unambiguous” position on protective equipment for officers policing the coronavirus crisis - unless you can keep a social distance of two metres or more from your colleagues and any member of the public, then it strongly recommends that you should wear a face mask.

Simon Steele, Secretary of Sussex Police Federation, said: “There is a general misunderstanding about what the face masks achieve. They are not there to protect the wearer, but those in close proximity to them.

“The wearer could be unknowingly infected and in the incubation period where they will not be symptomatic but will be infectious. We must protect our members to ensure we protect the organisation from unnecessary staff absences at a critical time.

”The position that we have adopted is one that not only protects our members but will undoubtedly prevent unnecessary spread of the virus within our organisation and ensure that we can maintain our capability to protect the public.”

During the last week the PFEW said it has seen conflicting advice issued to police officers by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) about the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), based on information and advice it has received from Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In the space of a few days the advice in relation to PPE has changed four times. This resulted in the totally unacceptable position of different chief officers following different advice, thereby creating a postcode lottery of safety for police officers, dependent upon what force they were in.

John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says: “This constantly changing advice, a lack of guidance and mixed messages from PHE, the NPCC and HSE is nothing short of a disgrace; it’s dangerous and completely unacceptable. This is not a training exercise; this is reality and is a matter of life or death. We must ensure officers have clear coherent advice and the best protective equipment available to do their job.

“In the absence of a coherent explanation as to why these changes were made, the PFEW position to police officers in England and Wales is clear and unambiguous; unless you can keep a social distance of two metres or more from your colleagues and any member of the public, then we strongly recommend that you should wear a face mask (Fluid Resistant Surgical Mask (IIR)) in order to keep you, your colleagues and the public safe.

“Officers are, however, encouraged to continually risk assess their interactions with the public and each other and use the PPE they deem appropriate under the circumstances. Not only will this help to keep your colleagues safe, it will help ensure the resilience of the police service and protection of the public and NHS throughout this pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented situation and the pressure on all emergency workers is like never before; but as the staff association for police officers, looking after their safety, and in turn the safety of the public, is non-negotiable.”