Police officers are being “vilified, harassed and abused” as a result of ever-changing and inconsistent Covid laws, the Metropolitan Police Federation has said.
Police leaders have been defending the service after a difficult year of lockdowns, protests and hastily brought-in legislation.
Ken Marsh, Met Police Federation Chair, said: “The laws have been changed 67 times in the last 12 months. At times we were given less than 24 hours to disseminate them, act on them and understand them.
“We were then vilified if we got it wrong, we were abused and harassed by the public, and then we got given another law.”
He said he felt there was “no way to police” some requirements, such as bans on gatherings in private homes and gardens, when coronavirus laws did not create a power of entry.
“They would do a briefing at Downing Street and a minister would say ‘the police will be enforcing that’ and we would be sitting here thinking, really? How are we going to do that then? It felt like the government were asking us to do more than we could, there was a lot of pressure.”
Ken said police officers had found balancing the coronavirus pandemic with their normal duties “very challenging”.
The police have been left to “pick up the pieces” of hastily written and badly communicated laws through a year of the coronavirus pandemic, officers have said amid warnings of a looming exodus when restrictions ease.
Paul Griffiths, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said the speed at which coronavirus laws have been drawn up was “shocking” compared to normal processes.
He said he heard of an imminent lockdown just an hour before the prime minister’s announcement on 23 March and that police had to “work through the night” to provide advice on how it could be enforced.
“We were very vocal early on, saying ‘be sure to be clear and consistent with your messaging both to the public and police’, and we have continued to say that,” he told The Independent.
Brian Booth, chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “It’s been very difficult managing this taking away of civil liberties, and it’s not been helped by wishy-washy releasing of laws.”
Neil Mennie, Chair of the Kent Police Federation, said the “language and expectations of politicians of what police can do was disproportionate” as officers responded to routine crime, rising domestic violence and other demands.
To see The Independent article in full, go to: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/covid-laws-police-lockdown-government-b1819850.html