Policing Covid ‘cannot be solo run’
It is unrealistic and impracticable to expect police officers to unilaterally enforce Covid regulations, according to the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI).
The Federation says the Service is already under resourced and simply won’t be able to cope with any major spike in demand for officers to intervene to deal with Covid breaches, on top of the many other roles they now carry out.
PFNI Chair, Mark Lindsay, said: “We simply don’t have the numbers to be everywhere. Re-directing officers from other duties isn’t realistic and anyone who thinks the police can shoulder the burden as sole enforcement organisation is either delusional or not serious about protecting society.
“Officers will continue to do all they can to encourage and explain and where that fails, then there will, of course, be an option of enforcement. But adding to the workload will mean some other areas of policing such as calls to help vulnerable people and crime will slip down the queue. Policing already shoulders much of the workload for under pressure public services and to expect us to have the capacity to deal with the major demand caused by Covid enforcement is unrealistic.
“The landscape is different to that twelve months ago, when policing demand was reduced due to lock down. The reality now is that there is a vibrant night-time economy, coupled with high levels of “normal” policing activity which equates to absolutely no spare capacity to deal with any expected surge in enforcement over Covid.
“There is some resentment amongst officers over the way they are being asked to bear the weight of this additional workload, whilst already stretched to capacity. This cannot be a solo run by police officers. Others, too, have to share the burden to deal with the Omicron variant and the steps that are necessary to keep us all as safe as possible.”