THE Government needs to act fast to explain new Covid-19 laws and guidance to police officers before restrictions are relaxed, Hampshire Police Federation has said.
Chair Zoë Wakefield said officers have been kept in the dark about the rules they will be expected to enforce in the coming weeks. From 29 March, outdoor mixing will be allowed, and pubs and restaurants will open their doors from 12 April. But it will be up to officers to again ensure that laws are followed and gatherings do not exceed limitations.
Speaking a week after the relaxations were announced, Zoë said: “We haven’t had the rules, the laws, the guidance yet. We haven’t had anything through yet so officers are still going to get it all very last minute. They’re still going to have to get their heads round it all very quickly.
“There’s clearly going to be exceptions to rules so yet again officers are having to learn what will be in place the day before. And they’re going to have to do that now for the next few months because we know it’s going to keep changing.”
The police have come under fire a number of times over the past year as officers and forces interpreted guidelines differently, leading to negative stories in the press. Zoë said the Government should have learned from this, and get information out to officers sooner. There have been more than 60 rule changes since the start of the pandemic a year ago.
She added: “Get it out sooner and keep it simple. The public can’t keep up with all the changes so how do they expect police officers to? Keep it simple and get it to us further in advance, particularly as they’ve got a plan now we should be able to get it sooner. They want officers to support them, so they need to support officers in doing that.”
John Apter, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has also urged the Government to introduce clear lockdown lifting guidelines: “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 front line of these changes, continually playing catch-up to get their heads around the latest information.”