Policing coronavirus rules 'alien to us' - police Fed boss who claims 20,000 new officers not enough
POLICE will have to rebuild their relationship with the British public once we come out of lockdown, at a time when "cracks are starting to show" in forces across the country, a senior officer has warned.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, (above) said while necessary, the policing if the pandemic "has been completely out of touch with the British model of policing by consent" and has tested the force's relationship with the public "to the limit."
Writing in his blog on the federation website, he said: "It’s been alien to us all. I didn’t join the job expecting to tell people they can’t play football – or that they can’t get together in someone’s house or at a birthday party.
I understand why this had to be done, it’s about keeping people safe but that doesn’t make it any easier and it’s not what policing should be about. Our relationship with the public is incredibly important, and Covid has tested it to the limit.
"As we do move forward, we will need to re-build relationships with many members of the public."
As restrictions remain, but are eased, with the re-opening of the night-time economy, the relationship is going to be further strained, as many forces struggle with low officer numbers, he added.
He said: "Everybody is frustrated and fed up with the restrictions we are living under. With the warmer weather, along with the easing of lockdown, mixed with that frustration will create more pressure and challenges for policing.
We haven’t had to police the night-time economy for most of the past year as pubs and clubs have been closed. When they start opening again, it will add even more pressure on officers who are already working flat out.
"While the public is planning for the transition out of lockdown, for policing, it will not be a case of ‘back to normal’."
Mr Apter said policing the planned G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, in June would require officers from across the country in attendance, stretching already strained forces, and risking spread of the virus if many of the younger officers are still not vaccinated.
He said: "It’s a question of resources, and as we have seen at protests around the country, there have been increasing requests for mutual aid as forces have to call on each other for support.
"The campaign to recruit 20,000 police officers is a good thing, but it’s not enough and we need to do far more than we currently do to help retain those who are leaving mid service.
"I have genuine concerns about policing going forward as we ease out of lockdown. Despite what you may hear in the media, we have no ‘extra’ officers.
"We have no officers to spare with the demand we already have. If people knew just how few police officers were truly available, they’d be horrified.
"The demand on us has been relentless and the cracks are showing. We need to make sure wellbeing is more than just a poster on a wall, it must mean something. Police officers are remarkable people, doing a difficult job. They deserve all the support they get, and that includes from the public."
Referring to criticism of the Met Police's handling of the Sarah Everard vigil, and attacks on forces' handling of lockdown restrictions, he added: "Some have painted (police) as the villains of the pandemic.
"I accept we won’t always get things right, policing is not easy. It’s complex and challenging with police officers having to make split second decisions, but the way they have been vilified by some, without knowing the full details of the situation is grossly unfair.
"We’ve seen public figures rush to condemn the actions of my colleagues based on snapshots of content they have seen on Twitter and other social media platforms. These ill-judged and ill-informed comments from people, often in high profile positions, have undermined policing; this has been incredibly damaging to us."