"An exceptional test we will step up to as one team"
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This blog has been written for officers and staff across Staffordshire Police by Chief Constable Gareth Morgan. We are also sharing it with the public to give them an insight into policing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The term unprecedented has become much overused in recent times and we all know we have been policing through some unusual and challenging times over the last few years.
But none of us has ever been confronted by a crisis of the scale and magnitude of Coronavirus-19.
Policing has been given the most far reaching powers to curtail people’s lives at a time when we know that communities are scared, anxious and looking for certainty. As I have said before, I am confident that the vast majority of people will take the directions issued by Government very seriously and comply with the instructions, and communities will by and large police themselves.
But some won’t.
That’s because some will be confused or worried.
Officer will be positive in approaching this minority and engaging with them to help them to understand what the new rules mean and how to follow them.
But some will be choosing to do their own thing.
And I want to be clear – with those who refuse to comply we will be enforcing not asking.
The stakes are too high and we’ll be too busy to invest disproportionate time persuading pubs that decide to have a ‘lock in’ to do the right thing or on people who decide to congregate in a misguided community event.
I am confident that the public will be by our side as we work in their interest to keep all of us as safe as possible. This is testament to the relationships that have built with the people of Staffordshire and because we are all part of this community.
And the message could not be clearer.
If we don’t limit the contact between people then the NHS will be overwhelmed and thousands more will die. If these measures don’t have the impact needed then I am in no doubt that more draconian but necessary measures will be introduced so we have to ensure that we make this work. For all our sakes.
Yesterday, together with our partners in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, we declared a Major Incident which underlines the nature of the threat and emphasises the multi-agency response required both now and in the coming weeks.
Inevitably the number of colleagues going off from work is going to increase.
We have identified those with underlying health conditions and others who can’t be in work and the numbers of those who are isolated at home looking after family members. This latter group continues to grow.
We are also tracking and supporting those who are off with the symptoms.
The reality though is that we will continue to see colleagues get unwell alongside loved ones and neighbours and this is going to put a strain on you and the organisation. This will be an exceptional test for all of us but it is one that I know we will step up to as one team. But we need to look out for each other as well as ourselves.
I am particularly grateful to colleagues in the Special Constabulary who have answered the call to service and who are working alongside their team mates across the force area. We are actively pursuing options with employers to get more colleagues released from their day jobs but in the interim I wanted to say thank you.
We are monitoring the changes in calls for service and have an agreed plan to adjust our response if and when resourcing becomes a real issue. We are not there yet. There is a real possibility that other issues will emerge. Scams exploiting this crisis have predictably increased but there are also concerns about the impact on the isolated and vulnerable - particularly in domestic abuse and child exploitation. We need to be relentless in pursuing those who would use this crisis for their own gain.
Whatever role you have in Staffordshire Police none of us really ever contemplated living and working through this pandemic. All of us have a part to play in ensuring that we support this national endeavour. Those responding directly are only as good as those who enabled and supported them to be able to do their job.
It’s never been a more important time to reflect on why we are in public service – our role at this time is to provide leadership in communities and to serve with compassion, confidence and conviction and to believe in ourselves that we can do what is asked of us.
I know that you can and will. It’s a privilege to serve alongside you at this time.