Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police South Devon Specials (Twitter: @SouthDevon_SC)
This has certainly been an extraordinary week where our lives have changed dramatically and quickly as a result of the Government’s current restrictions. There is no part of society Covid-19 hasn’t now touched, whether that is the economic impact of the virus or the consequences for our emergency services. It is clear we are all set to face some very challenging times in the weeks and months ahead.
It has been heartening to see, however, that despite these restrictions and the resulting uncertainty, the community spirit that makes us stand out in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is alive and well. There have been many examples of everyone playing their part to protect the vulnerable and I know that the Force has been inundated with offers of help from volunteers, retired officers and Specials looking to extend their hours.
This spirit also extends to our marvellous police officers who, despite their own challenges, are helping with vital services. The Charles Cross policing team in Plymouth, for example, has helped to deliver food parcels kindly donated by a business to a local primary school and to Derriford hospital. And in Cornwall, business and police are working together to overcome challenges. A local cider producer has repurposed its farm to brew alcohol-based hand sanitiser for the Force, NHS and other emergency services.
I have also received many direct messages from the public saying how impressed they have been with the professionalism and compassion of our police officers at this difficult time.
I am not going to pretend then that the new police powers to ensure the public complies with the current restrictions is going to be easy. Policing by consent and having a positive relationship with communities has always been vital for the police. It helps them with local intelligence if a crime has been committed and allows them to protect the vulnerable.
But it is vital that legislation is now in place to support police officers dealing with people who are clearly flouting the restrictions. I can assure you that the Chief Constable won’t take a heavy-handed approach, and in the first instance, voluntary compliance will be sought, seeking to understand their awareness of the restrictions and stressing the risks both to our lives and the NHS of not complying with the measures.
I am confident that our police officers will be sensible, pragmatic and employ their judgement especially when faced with a difficult situation. If stopped be polite and take heed of their advice as it’s in all our interests. The Police may direct us back home if our reason for travelling doesn’t comply to guidelines and can give us a fine of up to £60.
I am conscious that these restrictions may make it difficult for some people to interact with and care for their loved ones. I do appreciate how difficult and heart-breaking this is but it is necessary both to protect you and them.
The Chief Constable has my full support in enacting these powers if needed. We all have a duty to familiarise ourselves with the restrictions now imposed on us. Driving to a public location or beauty spot to walk your dog or exercise is simply not in the spirit of the Government’s restrictions. After what has felt like months of dismal weather, I know that we all want to enjoy the sunshine, but any exercise must start from your own front door.
I have communicated frequently with our local MPs and councillors, who understand we’re all in this together. They have all been very supportive of the emergency services, urging the public to do the right thing and challenging policy robustly, ensuring the concerns of their constituents are raised at the highest level, especially when information or advice appears unclear.
I’m sure while watching and listening to the news about Covid-19, you will have heard the term Local Resilience Forum. This forum co-ordinates all agencies to work effectively together at a time of critical need using well-rehearsed structures and mechanisms.
These are partnerships made up of leaders from local public services, including the emergency services, local authorities and the NHS. We are well prepared in our area as our Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton is the national policing lead for civil contingencies and Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew is the Chair of the Local Resilience Forum.
The leadership, energy and time they are demonstrating in order to keep us all safe is inspiring. And you will have seen our Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer being very clear in the media about how and why we are being policed in our community at the moment. We should all be proud we have such a strong team.
Stay safe everyone and remember to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.