It’s been a year to the day since the nation went into lockdown. Here Steve James, Gloucestershire Police Federation Chairman, reflects on the challenges members have faced and the proudness he feels towards their resilient approach.
It’s been a really difficult and challenging year for policing during this pandemic.
Police officers have been at the same risk of contracting this virus as everyone else, but too often have also had to put themselves in the position of risking that exposure further in order to keep others safe and enforce legislation.
I’m so proud to see how Gloucestershire Police has responded to that. Our force has done a really good job of managing the COVID-19 security within the workplace, getting PPE out to officers as effectively as possible, instigating protective measures very early on, arranging access to antibody testing, and just recently securing increased access to vaccinations and these are being rolled out at a really good rate.
So the Force as an organization has responded well, but so have individual officers within that. We have seen officers volunteering to work on COVID-19 response teams, knowing that would put them at an increased risk. We’ve had officers giving up leave and rest days to work to make sure we had enough staff, and they’ve responded with resilience. Our sickness rates have been at an historic low, and that is tribute to the fact that officers have taken steps to ensure that they live by regulations and that they can continue to do the job they signed up to do, and that’s keep the public safe.
It’s undoubted that what has happened in the past year and a half has changed some aspects of policing, but there have certainly been some changes with a positive impact. We moved quite quickly and successfully into remote working, and we would like to see some of that continue as we go forward as there are some clear wins for our members in that.
It’s been a year that few would have chosen, and few would choose to repeat, but in many ways a valuable one.
As a Federation, we have been involved in lots of the key decision making around police and response to COVID-19 and I’m pleased to say that locally we have been very involved with that from the start.
The Force has been really responsive with some of the planning and delivery we have tried to put into place. We have had some real wins, in particular securing access to PPE, allowing staff to buy back leave they weren’t able to take, and to carry that on so they won’t lose what they were entitled to, pushing for measures to be in place to support officers who have suffered with COVID-19, and will continue to do that in some cases of long Covid.
I think every officer will be as glad to see the back of lockdown, and the Coronavirus legislation they have to enforce, as everybody else is. We, like everyone else, are looking forward to a return to whatever the new normality may be.We will continue to support those officers who become ill with this virus and when they return to the workplace, making that as safe as possible.