Lockdown enforcement will place ‘pressure’ on reduced police capacity

Enforcing the new national lockdown in England will put “a lot of pressure” on police officers whose numbers are already reduced by the coronavirus pandemic, a federation leader has warned.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation – which represents front line officers in London, said some 1,300 were off sick or self-isolating in the capital.

His counterpart nationally, John Apter, wrote in the Daily Telegraph some forces were reporting 15% of their staff off sick or self-isolating.

Mr Marsh urged the Government to place police officers on a priority list to receive coronavirus vaccines, saying requests to the Government so far were “falling on deaf ears”.

His comments came as Government guidance released on Monday night warned that police could take action if people leave home without a “reasonable excuse” permitted under new lockdown rules.

Fixed penalty notices of £200 will be issued for a first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.

Asked about how lockdown enforcement would affect officers, Mr Marsh told the PA news agency: “It will obviously create a lot of pressure on us because we have a lot more officers off this time than we did back in March.

“Our numbers have rocketed in terms of officers with Covid and officers isolating and we envisage that getting worse.

“So the pressure is on my colleagues who are still out there to maintain the same level that they did before.”

Commenting on getting officers access to vaccines, he claimed: “It would appear that policing has been airbrushed out of any conversation in relation to protecting my colleagues, which I find quite incredible considering they are on the front line.

“They are the one group of people other than the National Health Service that actually have to go to work and have to be out there with the public, every day, 24 hours a day.

“It’s just amazing that no consideration whatsoever has been given to vaccinating police.”

Mr Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has called for officers to be prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.

He wrote in the Telegraph: “Without the vaccine, there is a real danger that more officers will contract the virus.

“As growing numbers self-isolate or report sick with the virus, then the police service begins to struggle to do what the public fully expects of it.

“Some forces are already starting to report up to 15% of their officers off sick or self-isolating. This is getting worse and is simply not sustainable.”

Mr Apter, whose organisation represents 130,000 officers, said the “last thing the public want is to call 999 in their hour of need, only to find we are too short of officers to be able to respond”.

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