As we enter another period of lockdown it is very evident that the threat of Covid 19 remains as real as it ever was. The rising death toll, after a period of substantial reductions, and a renewal of increased pressure on hospitals, has led the Government to impose this new set of restrictions on the freedoms we all hold so dear and which contribute so much to what we value in our lives.
As we progress through this period of huge disruption to what used to be our normality, many have questioned the methods adopted in an effort to contain the spread and effect of the virus and also the timing of the application of restrictions across the country. Questions remain and arguments continue about the effect of the economic measures that have been introduced in an effort to limit the devastating financial impact on so many who have been furloughed, or lost jobs, or who are struggling to keep businesses afloat. We should all recognise the struggle that so many are facing at this time and reflect on the pain suffered by those who have lost loved ones before their time to this new, cruel and horrible disease.
Many people think the Government has been right in its decisions at every step and that they are trying their best. Others accept the Government are trying their best but believe their best isn’t good enough for the scale of crisis we face. Some question the motives of the Government’s decisions and there are some who believe we have taken entirely the wrong approach to dealing with the pandemic. These varying opinions are growing more entrenched as time passes, which is potentially problematic as what most would agree on is that if we are to limit the effects of the pandemic to the greatest extent, we do need a consistency of approach, but also of application. That means that whatever rules and laws are enacted in an attempt to contain the virus, the best chance we have of the approach being successful is that we all stick to those rules and laws. Voicing the view that the rules won’t work, and then ignoring them, is a self-fulfilling prophesy from which real suffering will undoubtedly follow.
We live in a world where all too often professional expertise, based upon years of experience and study, is rejected in favour of ‘media influencers’ and populist opportunism, where conspiracy theories abound and the rise of individualism leads to a rejection of the notion of ‘common good’. I believe this is a situation where we should listen to the experts, reject the conspiracy theories and accept that for the good of the many we all have to make personal sacrifices – regardless of your personal views about Government competence or motives. We are where we are and we need to confront what is in front of us, not become blinded to the challenge ahead because of what has already occurred.
Humberside Police has responded very professionally and proportionately so far in their response to the pandemic. Although I do not control the operational response of the Force, as that is the remit of the Chief Constable, I have been keen to stress to the Chief Constable that from a strategic perspective, a key aim should be to maintain the confidence of all our communities and ensure the public see the policing style and application as a legitimate response, done with communities and not against them. The Force have adopted that approach in applying the national policing guidance of Engage, Explain, Encourage and, as a last option, Enforce, with the knowledge that policing cannot ensure compliance simply through prosecution. I do think, however, with the re-emergence of high levels of Covid transmission and some very blatant breaches, the police will take less time trying to encourage people to comply and will be more willing to advance to enforcement more quickly. I believe the public mood is turning in support of a more robust approach in an effort to contain this increase in covid cases as soon as possible, so as to relax the limitations on our freedom as quickly as possible.
I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all our nurses, doctors, carers, police officers and staff and other public servants and volunteers who continue to put themselves in harms’ way for all our benefit. For some of us, our contribution to beating the pandemic is a temporary reduction of our freedoms. For others it is literally putting their lives on the line every day and working long hours in uncomfortable, full protective equipment, for our benefit.
I ask that, for the common good and out of respect for those public servants, everyone abides by the law and guidance issued in respect of the lockdown and that you all support our police service in their efforts to protect the public. We will get through this together if we work together. If we don’t do that, the journey will be longer and harder than it needs to be.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside