Up to politicians to decide coronavirus regulations, GMP chief insists

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has insisted it is for politicians to decide coronavirus regulations, amid a row between Downing Street and local leaders over moving the region to the highest alert level.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said that while he is “accountable” to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, he has made clear he remains “operationally independent”.

It follows reports that the Government has not imposed Tier 3 measures on Greater Manchester over fears police would not enforce them without the backing of Mr Burnham.

Manchester Arena incident
Manchester Arena incident

Political leaders in the region have so far refused to accept the highest level of restrictions without greater financial support for businesses and residents.

“Clearly, it is for national and local politicians to decide the regulations that they feel are appropriate to keep Greater Manchester safe,” Mr Hopkins told reporters.

“And once they’ve decided those regulations, then Greater Manchester Police will enforce those in a proportionate way as we have done since March when this pandemic hit.

“And we will continue to do that and deal with the most problematic issues across our force area.”

He added: “I didn’t feel it was right that the public of Greater Manchester should think that, in any way, that there is political interference around the way that we police.”

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Hopkins vowed to police “without fear or favour” as he addressed the reports in an open letter.

“All officers and staff in Greater Manchester Police are accountable to me as Chief Constable,” he wrote.

Open letter from GMP's Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins.@CCIanHopkinspic.twitter.com/kVqrnWNR77

— Greater Manchester Police (@gmpolice) October 17, 2020

“We carry out operational policing without fear or favour and in line with the Police Services code of ethics alongside colleagues across the country.”

He added: “It is for local and national politicians to agree the necessary restrictions to keep us all safe.

“As the Chief Constable I will then ensure my officers and staff enforce these in a proportionate manner alongside our local authority partners.”

Boris Johnson tried to increase pressure on Mr Burnham during a Downing Street press conference on Friday, threatening to impose the measures if local leaders did not accept them.

“I cannot stress enough: time is of the essence. Each day that passes before action is taken means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care and tragically more people will die,” the Prime Minister said.

But the mayor and council leaders across Greater Manchester responded by insisting they have done “everything within our power to protect the health of our residents”.

They said people and firms need greater financial support before they accept the tougher restrictions.