At each stage of my messages to you I have tried to ensure we prepare for the next stage.
As events have shown this is moving quickly. Events in Italy feel more proximate. More people will be ill and more are going to die. This is going to be the toughest moment of our careers in policing.
So where are we?
An increasing proportion of the force is self-isolating or confined to home with underlying conditions. Some have sick family. We will be offering more guidance on asthma and diabetes as staff only need to be at home in serious cases. We have seen the NHS advice for staff in direct contact with COVID19 so some people with mild asthma and diabetes will be as safe as the rest of us at work.
The workplace is looking more controlled with new tidy habits. Keep it clean. Look after PPE. As you can see this is precious.
The major incident structures are up and running. We have done some refocusing on services and there will be more of this. Our absence levels will grow when more people become ill and we will need to start focusing on critical services. We have a plan which is based on predictive data.
Expect the unexpected. The Prime Minister’s directions to the public are very sensible but you will often see these things when I do. It’s a fast moving, complex situation and we need to be flexible. Sometimes you will get frustrated with us as we cannot answer questions as fast as you may like.
We are not anywhere close to the peak of this. We are in the early stages. Harder times lie ahead.
That said here is now the first big challenge for the police:
We have now been asked to enforce the most restrictive conditions EVER placed on a population by any government; even in wartime. We soon be asked to restrict movement even further in defined areas.
HOW we do this is more important than ever. In these tough times Peel’s principles have never been more relevant since they were written in 1829.
There are some key ones now to reflect on:
We’re still waiting for the full details of how the new powers will work but be clear they will be enforced by the public first and foremost. No government can make people do what they don’t want to do. People are scared for their families and their futures. Not everyone is fully aware of what is being asked of them across the many communities we police.
We have asked for a policing style that positively encourages people to follow these rules. The enforcement is a fall back when people do not cooperate.
We do this brilliantly in policing. We need to look calm, measured and give people the confidence we have this under control, which we do. People are looking for leadership from us. BUT:
EVERYONE MUST FOLLOW THESE RULES OR MORE PEOPLE WILL DIE.
WE ARE TELLING PEOPLE THEY MUST FOLLOW THESE RULES NOT ASKING IF THEY WILL.
So be very clear with people it is not an “ask”. There is going to be a place for enforcement with a few idiots but use this wisely as it is more important we change behaviour than empty the penalty notice book or fill up the cells.
As the sickness levels grow and touches someone you know this will feel real and even the dafter ones will get in line. Being a calm, sensible, rock solid agency that lets people know we are on their side at a time of real crisis is the best way to get what we want. Remember criminals are going to exploit this pandemic so we need to be ready for them not entangled community tensions over making this happen. We do however need to halt the infection rate by acting.
I think you are all being amazing.
This is really happening on our watch and we are going to come out of this. I think we will do it with our reputation even higher if we do this well. The world is watching and our reputation as the best police service in the world rides on this.