“WE don’t want to ruin anyone’s Christmas. We just urge everybody to stick to the guidelines so that they don’t get a visit from us, because the last thing we want to be doing is going round everyone’s houses on Christmas Day.”
That’s the message from Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoë Wakefield, who said that the new Government guidelines for meeting family at Christmas mean that police “can’t win”. She said: “We will be criticised if we do take action and we will be criticised if we don’t.”
Zoë’s comments follow a tweet by PFEW Chairman John Apter, who said: “Police officers are being portrayed by some as the villains during this pandemic.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan agreed, saying live on air: “I completely agree, I think the police have been put into an incredibly difficult position where they’re told to enforce it – they get the blame. If they don’t enforce it they get the blame. Whatever they do they get the blame.”
Zoë said she thought police officers should get more support from the Government and that officers had been “completely taken for granted during this pandemic”. In the Government’s new 64-page COVID Winter Plan, police were not mentioned at all.
She said: “I think it would be nice if the Government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson came out and gave some support for the police and explained to the public that if you get a visit from the police over Christmas for breaking the rules, the police officers are acting on behalf of the Government.
“Don’t take your frustrations out on the police officers. The Government is setting the rules and the police officers are just being employed to enforce those rules.”
Officers would have to make some “difficult decisions” at Christmas, Zoë added.
She said: “We will obviously allocate the same criteria as we do when we respond to calls, and that’s on a threat, harm or risk basis – depending on how busy we are with other calls.
“But we can’t ignore these calls. We do have to deploy to them and the officers will have to deal with what they face and they will have to make some difficult decisions.”
But Zoë believes that the majority of the public support the police.
She said: “We had a survey recently, locally, that showed that 66% of the public thought that the police had done a good job of policing the pandemic.
“But there is a proportion that don’t understand that we are just implementing the Government guidelines, that these aren’t decisions that police officers are making off their own back. We are doing a job. We have to impose the law and we are doing what the Government is asking us to do.”