STAFFORDSHIRE Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, has released the below statement in response to the changes that will affect policing following the Government’s revisions to the Coronavirus restrictions which come into effect today.
“The efforts of the public over the past seven weeks have meant police officers have rarely had to enforce the Government regulations here in Staffordshire – thank you. I am confident the vast majority will continue to do their bit and follow the revised guidance which has been published today.
“The threat of infection has not gone away. These changes are incremental and the overriding public health message remains that people should stay home as much as possible to help keep the infection rate down.
“However, the reasons why people can go out – to work, shop and for leisure/exercise – have now been expanded.
“As many of us are now able to spend more time outdoors, each of us need to take personal responsibility for doing that within the restrictions set out by the Government. Our role as police officers is primarily to engage and explain. The expansion of the reasons to be away from home rightly focuses on what people can do rather than previously a longer list of what they can’t do. In reality they describe a return to what most of us would describe as a slow return to work and family life which thankfully we don’t normally police.
“It is vitally important that we remember that, as police officers, we enforce the law not guidance. For example, social distancing is guidance and it is not enforceable in these regulations. Personal responsibility is now key - for those who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others. Keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.
“Overall, the public’s response during these unprecedented times, and how they have coped with the restrictions placed on them as part of the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives, has been extraordinary. The vast majority have followed the Government’s guidance, making personal sacrifices to do so. There are clearly still restrictions in place which will continue to place limits on people and I anticipate that occasionally we will need to use our enforcement powers for the small minority who break the law. This is necessary if we are to support the majority who are adhering to the law and to ensure we safeguard the country’s recovery. It’s also important to remember that throughout this crisis we have continued to fulfil our core role of day-to-day policing alongside the challenges presented by the pandemic. “I expect some people are going to be uncertain and confused and will need to be helped to work their way through the coming days and many will be looking for clarity. I would encourage people to refer to the FAQs which the Government has published here. It provides some simple guidance to help address the questions which many people are likely to have.
“So, to conclude, officers and staff will continue to use the approach that has served us and the public so well to date. As the restrictions on people are significantly lessened, I expect us to be less involved in ‘policing’ this public health crisis, but when we do I expect us to continue to engage and explain the new guidance with patience and courtesy and only use enforcement if necessary. This approach has worked well with the vast majority of the public and it is a tribute to the professionalism of officers and staff that Staffordshire Police has retained the confidence of the public to date. This is a significant achievement in the context of what we have been asked to do.
“As Chief Constable, I am hugely proud of the approach Staffordshire Police officers and staff have taken in the midst of all the personal challenges that everyone currently has to contend with as we look after ourselves, our families and loved ones alongside serving the public. I am grateful for their continuing professionalism and commitment to keeping local communities safe as we continue to address this national crisis in such challenging circumstances.”