Police responded well to exceptional circumstances of pandemic said inspectorate
The police service responded well to the challenge of policing the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
The report said that although there were some inconsistencies, in general police forces took immediate and decisive action to respond to the extreme circumstances of the pandemic.
HMICFRS found that during the first lockdown the demand on policing changed. There were fewer reports of some crimes such as theft and robbery, and an increased need to support the work of other frontline services as well as enforcing lockdown restrictions. This change meant forces utilised their resources differently. For example, some forces were able to clear backlogs of outstanding arrest warrants.
Inspectors also found that the fast-paced announcement and introduction of new legislation affected some forces’ ability to produce timely and clear guidance for staff. This sometimes led to confusion over the difference between legislation and government guidance, with the inspectorate stressing that the police can only enforce legislation.
The inspectorate acknowledged the criticism some forces faced for their interpretation of lockdown restrictions, including undertaking road checks to identify unnecessary journeys, drone surveillance, and police action in relation to non-essential shopping and what was thought to be excessive exercise.
While these actions were viewed by some as heavy-handed or inconsistent, inspectors were assured that police forces had learnt from these instances and in general did well to maintain public trust.