Federation calls for end to mixed messages on lockdown

23 February 2021

The secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation says members’ jobs have been made more difficult during the pandemic by poor Government guidance.

Roger Webb says both the Welsh and English Governments must stop issuing mixed messages about Covid-19 regulations to avoid further confusion when lockdown measures are finally lifted.

Some changes to lockdown restrictions in Wales came into effect on Saturday including four people from two different households being able to meet outdoors for socially-distanced local exercise.

In England, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced a “roadmap” for easing Covid-19 measures.

New figures from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) show 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.

And Roger said: “It’s shocking but not surprising that so many of my colleagues are unclear on previous Covid-19 laws and regulations. The figures highlight the lack of clarity and the lack of guidance, and the fast-changing nature of the legislation and the restrictions we’re asked to police.

“Whenever changes to lockdown restrictions come in, it will be my colleagues who have to enforce these new rules often at very short notice. My colleagues will step up to this challenge - as they have many times since the lockdown began in March.

“But our message to both governments is that police officers need clearer rules which can be enforced fairly, and the public need clearer instructions so that they know what they are allowed to do within the law.”

Roger’s comments were echoed by PFEW’s chair John Apter who said: “We’ve 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.

Just over a quarter (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.

John 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.”