National Federation chair John Apter told a Westminster committee that he “couldn’t be prouder” of how members have policed the Covid-19 pandemic.
John’s comments came as he appeared before the House of Lords Constitution Committee to discuss the challenges of rapid changes in legislation and unfair media criticism of policing during the pandemic.
“This has been the most unprecedented time for policing,” John told committee members. “And it’s important we recognise that. My colleagues have absolutely stepped up to the plate during this crisis and I couldn’t be prouder of them as they are faced with the rapid changes in legislation and unfair criticism in the national media.”
John appeared before members of the House of Lords alongside the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) chair Paddy Tipping.
He explained how the Police Federation had raised concerns during discussions with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the Home Office and the wider Government throughout the crisis.
This included ahead of 4 July, which was dubbed “Super Saturday”, when the Federation warned the Government against relaxing restrictions and opening pubs on a weekend.
John said: “I completely understand the economic pressures – but this decision (to open pubs on a Saturday after months of lockdown) put an intolerable amount of pressure on my colleagues. All we wanted from the Government was an understanding when these announcements are made there are consequences for policing.”
The national chair said members are under huge pressure as they deal with crime levels similar to those seen before the pandemic.
He also highlighted a 21 per cent increase in recorded assaults on police officers during the first period of lockdown, compared to the same time the year before.
When the committee asked how police officers on the frontline were advised of changes to coronavirus restrictions and whether they have been clear, John said there were often delays because of the speed of new legislation and the main information was shared via PowerPoint presentations.
He said officers preferred to be told face to face on shift briefings, and stressed the need for simpler guidance.
“With the guidance, we have over-complicated it,” he said, “I acknowledge lessons have been learnt and I appreciate this is an unprecedented time, but simplicity is key. I accept the tiering system has made it more complex, but it doesn’t help colleagues out on the frontline.”
Speaking after his appearance before the committee, John said: “This was a good opportunity to highlight the realities of policing during the pandemic and the pressure my colleagues have been, and remain, under.
“We’ve been policing in the most unprecedented of times. My colleagues have been labelled the villains of this pandemic by some media; this is an insult to those officers who have done their absolute best in these difficult times.”