23 September 2020
“The last thing I would like to see and the last thing I know the Federation would like to see is uniformed military on the streets of England and Wales,” the Chair of Wiltshire Police Federation has said.
Prime minister Boris Johnson made a televised address yesterday to outline new COVID rules, promising “a greater police presence on our streets”. He said the Government would provide the police and local authorities with extra funding and the option to draw on military support where required.
Wiltshire Police Federation Chair Mark Andrews went on Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ programme last night and was asked what that military support might mean. He said: “That’s the 50,000 dollar question – what does it actually mean? I know the military has supported the nation in moments of crisis; they offered logistical support for PPE supplies and for the Nightingale hospitals and I’ve appreciated everything they’ve done for us. I’m ex-military myself.
“The primary function of the police is to maintain the safety of the public. We are out there and we deal with crime, we investigate crime and we help those who are vulnerable. I don’t believe the military are trained to do that, I don’t believe they’re trained to deal with road traffic collisions... we’ll have to wait and see what the Government’s proposals are.
“The last thing I would like to see and the last thing I know the Federation would like to see is uniformed military on the streets of England and Wales. We’ve not asked for their support, and there are other ways of achieving support, through partnership with local authorities, and we should try that first.”
Mark said that the police would “give it a good go” at policing the new COVID restrictions, but that he was “desperately concerned that we don’t have the numbers that we once had, to help as much as we would like to”.
He continued: “I know the Government has said they’ll give us more money, but giving us more money doesn’t give us more police officers straight away – it takes a year to train a police officer. Giving us more money might give us money to pay officers overtime, but we’re already doing that, we’ve got officers on cancelled rest days, we’ve got officers working long shifts, and it’s having an impact on their family life. So how are we going to achieve it? I’m not sure.”
He said that enforcement of the new rules “has got to be an option” and that Wiltshire Police had issued fines – including one of over £10,000 to a single household – to those flouting COVID legislation.
But he said: “We’ll always try to engage with and educate people first.
“My hope is that people will comply with the guidance and legislation that has been given by the Government and we won’t have to be involved. Obviously if people aren’t listening and are not engaging with us, then we will enforce.”