Policing the poorly-understood Covid-19 regulations is proving a bridge too far for many officers. And over-zealous ones who cheerfully fine members of the public who innocently break the rules help undermine the whole system.
This aspect of police behavior has got worse; standards of how the officers wear their uniforms and how they address us as members of the public, have fallen.
Too often, they appear scruffy, if not unkempt and dirty, and refer to the people they serve as ‘mate, fellah, pal, dear or love’. It seems calling members of the public ‘sir or madam’ is a thing of the past.
There is a simple reason for this: weakness and lack of strategic vision amongst senior leaders. To avoid allegations of internal bullying, misogyny or racism, they avoid challenging poor appearance, bad manners, or rude behavior.
It’s due to a pusillanimous fear of being complained about and damaging their chances of promotion. This basic failure to instill pride in the organization they work for is at the very heart of why the police are struggling to keep the confidence of the public.
For someone who has seen, at countless times, the compassion, courage, professionalism and basic decency of so many police officers, this loss of reputation makes me sad and angry. It did not need to happen and it is damaging the commitment and passion of our many wonderful police officers.
Now this continuing collapse in service by the police is being accelerated by their being forced to sweep up behind the continuing failure of the Government to take a clear decision on how to manage Covid-19 and stick with it.
I doubt there’s anyone amongst us who really knows what the current rules are or what the penalties are for breaching them.
In short, because the Government has failed to give clear leadership and has chopped and changed its policies, many people have lost confidence in what they are being told and no longer care or understand.
Now there’s talk of new, even more draconian clampdowns, including getting the police to go into grocery stores and chase down mask-less shoppers, a supermarket Stasi handing out on-the-spot fines in aisle seven.
Boris Johnson and his government cannot make up for their failure in clearly deciding on and communicating its policies to the nation by making the police their rule enforcers, turning them into Covid-19 commissars.
A demoralized workforce is now being asked to do the Government’s dirty work for them after years of cuts to funding, and I’m not sure they’ll put up with it.
We’ve recently seen the government make a serious attempt to scare people into compliance by wheeling out Home Secretary Priti Patel, alongside a visibly less than enthusiastic Head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Chief Constable Martin Hewitt.
These two unlikely bedfellows have now got the poisoned chalice of trying to stop the spread of the virus by getting demoralized and increasingly understaffed police to give out fixed penalty notices to those rule breakers who standstill long enough.
It is these ‘conflict dodgers’ who will now be doing the most damage to the reputation of the police, by eagerly seizing on the government’s strictures to chase down mask-less people, those out walking ‘illegally’, or ‘illicitly’ driving to see their aged mother.
These officers are being given a charter to go out to harass people who are breaking some, frankly, barking Covid-19 rules, generally by innocent mistake rather than through some sense of entitlement.
But the real ones who are spreading the virus with impunity – the yob street gangs, the ravers, the street partiers, the political demonstrators for whatever cause – will be left to carry on with impunity?
RT. com / ABC Flash Point Government News 2021.