Next week I am having a week at home. I am not going on holiday but the break is really welcomed. The last few months have been demanding. I suspect I am not alone in feeling a little tired. I hope you are taking some time off across the summer as you deserve a break. Sadly it will not be a holiday this year for most of us.
March seems a lifetime ago. We began with huge staff absences as people self-isolated. The lockdown was keenly followed by the public and as staff came back we were very proactive during Operation Inglenook tackling drug dealers and gangs. We moved from this stage into the George Floyd related protests and some very real challenges to police legitimacy and race at a time of considerable pressure. Demands for police service started to return alongside the significant uplift in domestic abuse and harassment.
The public followed the lockdown better than any of us could have imagined. Today communities are tired of the restrictions and feeling the impact. I have always said the public will determine whether these measures are followed. People are still being amazing (look at face mask uptakes in shops) but there is fatigue and some aspects of lockdown are openly challenged by a minority.
I think we have reached the hard yards stage.
Inside West Midlands Police
We will need to deal with infection outbreaks in WMP. You may have seen the significant impact of infections at Oldbury custody block this week. It reinforces the critical impact upon our services. If someone is infected and brings this into the workplace as it can cause huge number of staff to self-isolate.
We are working very hard on CoVID-secure workplaces with a view to bringing people back to work. This is staged and is being done with care for people who have been absent for some time.
However, this needs ownership by leaders and personal responsibility. You need to ensure you are observing regular handwashing requirements, are socially distancing and you do not attend work if you show symptoms. Go and get tested.
Leaders need to ensure we are sticking to the rules. Think about briefings, crewing arrangements, and work stations. At the start of the outbreak we were very focused upon making sure areas were clean and tidy. You must keep this up but make sure we are not getting complacent.
Policing our communities
Our public service demand is extremely challenging. We are having to make choices between the need to enforce CoVID rules and normal demand. A few points:
We can expect localised restrictions. You will be aware Sandwell is showing an elevated infection rate. We will be seeking to maximise visibility and interventions, with partners in areas like these to try and play our role in reducing infections. We can, through the four E’s, help change behaviour as we do not want further restrictions.
I am very concerned over the illegal gatherings in the form of car cruises or street-based parties. These are disorderly, dangerous events that risk spreading infections. We have to effectively intervene and deal with these issues. If we do not then this will result in increased delinquency and risk to the public. The firearms discharge at Dudley Road is an example of this. I am under no illusion these are difficult to deal with and involve personal threats and challenge.
We are seeking to elevate the numbers of staff on duty and putting in command structures. We are also using a wide range of policing resources to gather evidence.
In these circumstances people are taking deliberate, concerted mass action to breach the regulations and we will now need to consider whether the first three E’s are necessary and enforcement needs to be applied. I am encouraging government to consider additional powers and stronger deterrence for these circumstances. If you organise an illegal street party the sanction must be more serious than not wearing a face mask on a bus.
At the same time we need to give due attention to vulnerable people and victims of domestic abuse. Sometimes we are getting to things that seem urgent but they may not be as important as some of the crimes affecting the most vulnerable.
This is all very tough to manage and it is coming at a time where we are missing social contact with friends and family and some sun. These are the toughest times in the history of policing. The longest emergency outside a war and one that is being fought against an invisible disease. These are historic times but I know we will add to our proud history through your efforts. Thank you so much for your professionalism.
Try and get a break as we are in for the long haul.