Police officers face "balancing act" as West Yorkshire enters third full lockdown

West Yorkshire Police officers still face a "balancing act" as they begin enforcing England's third national lockdown, according to the body which represents rank and file officers.

By Ian Hirst
Sunday, 10th January 2021, 7:00 am

The district's Police Federation chairman Brian Booth also reiterated his call for police officers to receive Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as possible to ensure officers can police the pandemic effectively.

Mr Booth said police officers and the public were "sick and tired" of restrictions, but said he was proud of the tricky line officers in West Yorkshire have walked between education and enforcement.

He said: "The police hear views from one side saying 'it's all a conspiracy, it's nonsense, let's go for herd immunity' - they will push the boundaries and say they are not complying with the guidance, and on the other side you have those who are more authoritarian - and the police have to stand in the middle and make a call."

The district's Police Federation chairman Brian Booth

Mr Booth said a meeting was being held on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest changes, but said West Yorkshire chief constable John Robins had generally been favouring the education approach.

"The more moderate response is probably the right response - but blatant breaches do need enforcement," he added.

"It is a fine balancing act between public health and longer-term not causing a breakdown in trust."

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.

Mr Booth added: "We have got a lot better at policing this over the last 12 months.

"Last March there were not as many exemptions available as there are this time.

"It is hard for the public and for police officers on duty to remember all the restrictions - but it is a lot clearer than it used to be."

On vaccines, Mr Booth said he was "not saying we should jump the queue in front of the very vulnerable", but that police officers on the front line often have no choice about entering dangerous situations with little PPE.

In London, Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, 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 Booth said if the new Covid strain is to hit West Yorkshire as hard as it has hit London and the south-east, there could be problems.

"Anyone working on the frontline needs to be vaccinated," he added.

"Officers also have to have time off work if they are self-isolating, so it is also a resilience issue."