Clear guidance needed as lockdown eases, says Federation chair


PUBLISHED 22 Feb 2021

IN News

Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom today called for clear guidance when coronavirus lockdowns are eased to enable fair policing of the pandemic.

Liz says it’s crucial the public understand and support any changes and police officers are able to enforce them fairly.

Her comments come as new figures from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) revealed that only one in 10 officers in England and Wales thought police powers previously introduced to manage the coronavirus crisis were clear.

The demand, capacity and welfare survey also found only 24 per cent of respondents felt the ‘Four E’s’ (engage, explain, encourage and enforce) approach was effective when enforcing the new police powers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today (Monday) expected to announce a “roadmap” for easing Covid-19 measures in England.

Liz explained: “Too often rule changes have lacked clarity which has led to confusion among the public as to what they can do. And to continue to effectively and fairly police the pandemic we need clear guidance from the Government.

“Too often over the last 11 months, laws have been changed with very little notice for what that actually means for my colleagues on the ground. As a result, we’ve been criticised by some for enforcing too much while others have said it’s not enough.

“And too often we’re walking a tightrope between maintaining public confidence and upholding the law. We need the Government to make it clear what it expects from the public so we all know where we stand,” Liz added.

Her comments were echoed by PFEW’s chair John Apter who said: “Given the fact there have been more than 60 rule changes introduced during the pandemic, it comes as no surprise whatsoever that only 10 per cent of police officers who responded to our survey said they found the Covid-19 rule changes to be clear.

“We have been saying from the beginning, clear guidance on what people can and can’t do is needed; otherwise people will inadvertently fall foul of the law or may take advantage of the mixed messages. And it’s my colleagues who are on the frontline of these changes, continually playing catch-up to get their heads around the latest information.”

The new report also contains a number of personal testimonies from frontline officers, including those who have contracted Covid-19 while on duty, and those who’ve faced the virus being weaponised against them.

Almost a third of respondents (32 per cent) reported that a member of the public, believed to be carrying Covid-19, had purposely threatened to breathe or cough on them at least once over the past six months; with nearly a quarter reporting actual attempts at doing so.

The survey revealed 26 per cent of respondents believed they had already had Covid-19, and 45 per cent of these felt they had contracted the virus through work-related activities.

The national chair added: “I suggest the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Governments of England and Wales read this report very carefully. Then they can attempt to explain to my colleagues on the frontline why, after the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, they should not be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination.”