A police association has urged policymakers in England and Wales to avoid “mixed messages” about future Covid regulations after investigations found that only 10% of officers felt their previously established powers were clear.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson should aim to “not repeat the ambiguity about last year’s pandemic measures” before revealing his “roadmap” out of England’s lockdown, the Police Association of England and Wales (PFEW) said.
The warning coincides with the publication of PFEW research that found one in ten officers in England and Wales agrees with the statement that “new police powers to deal with the Covid-19 crisis are clear”.
71% of respondents to the demand, capacity and welfare survey disagreed with the statement, while 19% neither agreed nor disagreed.
The poll, conducted between October 5 and November 23 of last year, received 12,471 “viable responses,” the PFEW said, with the response rate being “approximately 10% of all federated rank officers in England and Wales.”
During the pandemic, police officers have adopted the “four-E” approach to implementing Covid regulations – engaging, explaining, encouraging and enforcing.
However, the PFEW survey found that only 24% of respondents felt that this was effective in dealing with the public.
PFEW National Chairman John Apter said: “Given that more than 60 rule changes were introduced during the pandemic, it is no surprise that only 10% of police officers who responded to our survey said they had Covid -19 to have found Rule changes must be clear.
“We have said from the start that there is a need for clear guidance on what people can and cannot do. Otherwise, people will accidentally break the law or take advantage of the mixed messages.
“And it is my colleagues who are at the forefront of these changes, constantly catching up to catch up on the latest information.”
The PFEW report also found that 32% of respondents said that a member of the public who they believed had Covid-19 had threatened to breathe or cough at least once in the past six months, almost one Quarter (24%). to say that this was actually attempted.
According to the report, those in the roles of “custody” and “response” had the largest proportion of respondents who experienced such incidents, which may indicate that they are “at greater risk of Covid-19 being armed against them” .
About 36% of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about adequate access to Covid-19 testing, and 34% were similarly uncomfortable because they were in close contact with someone with Covid while on duty.
Overall, 26% of those surveyed said they had already had a coronavirus, 45% said it had been infected through work-related activities.
Earlier this month, police federations leaders warned that a failure to prioritize vaccination of frontline police officers against Covid-19 would be “a deep betrayal and will not be forgiven or forgotten”.
Mr Apter suggested to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) and the authorities in England and Wales that “read this report very carefully”.
He added, “Then they can try to explain to my frontline colleagues why they shouldn’t be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccination after vaccinating the most vulnerable people.”
According to its own information, the PFEW represents more than 130,000 police officers up to and including the rank of chief inspector.