Police

Australia Uses Helicopters and the Army to Enforce Lockdown Rules

The enforcement of lockdown rules in Australia has jumped to another level, with the army knocking on doors to check that people who have tested positive are self-isolating and helicopters blaring the message: “This is public health order – do not break rules – you will be found and fines issued.”

Police are also checking IDs to ensure that citizens are not outside their ‘exercise radius‘, and those not wearing face masks are being hit with $500 fines. MailOnline has more.

[On Sautrday], up to 1,300 police officers swarmed Sydney and set up a network of roadblocks in a massive show of force to avoid a repeat of last week’s violent anti-lockdown protest.

Some 250 fines, each worth $500, were issued across the city today, with one man arrested after travelling on trains outside his local Government area without a reasonable excuse.

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison had launched a four-stage plan back to freedom but said 80% of adults would have to be vaccinated before the border can begin to open.

Sydney’s five million people are under a strict stay-at-home order because of a worrying surge of nearly 3,000 infections since the middle of June.

Authorities have this week outlined even tighter restrictions for some worst-affected suburbs, including mandatory testing and mask-wearing outdoors. 

From Monday, some 300 army personnel will help police go door to door to ensure people who have tested positive are isolating. 

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a news conference: “The sheer volume of increase over the last week, the level of compliance has gone from hundreds into thousands.”

The military personnel will not be armed and will be under police command, he said. …

[Australia] is faced with the spread of the much more infectious Indian variant that is proving able to overcome lockdown measures. Many highly vaccinated countries are now re-opening, but Australia is sticking to its ‘Zero Covid’ strategy while its vaccine drive lags behind the rest of the world.   

Sydney’s latest surge of cases has been traced back to an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver who got infected last month. Since then, Australia’s biggest city has reported 13 deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Police Response Times “Under Strain” Because of Staff Shortages Caused by “Pingdemic”

The “pingdemic” isn’t just damaging business and social life, but also the ability of the police to deal with crime. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) says that response times are “under strain” due to staff shortages caused by self-isolation rules. 7.3% of police officers and staff are currently absent from work, yet the Government appears to be in no hurry to come up with a solution. Sky News has the story.

The NPCC said that in some forces, functions such as control room operations are being hit by high numbers of absent staff, impacting their ability to respond quickly to calls.

Earlier, one Police and Crime Commissioner warned the public that call response times will rise due to the large amount [number] of people being asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with a positive coronavirus case.

Steve Turner of Cleveland Police said the force has had to cancel rest days and annual leave for some officers, as well as bringing in others from different shifts, to fill gaps caused by staff having to quarantine after being close to someone with Covid.

It comes as a leading epidemiologist, who runs the ZOE Covid symptom study, claimed the NHS Covid app is no longer useful.

Professor Tim Spector told Sky News: “I think employers should tell their staff if they feel unwell, they have cold-like symptoms, then they stay away but I don’t think the app saying that someone might have passed them by in a supermarket is actually that useful anymore in the current state of the pandemic.”

He added: “It doesn’t seem to be appropriate at the moment… it seems to be overkill.” …

The Government has dismissed calls to change the sensitivity of the app, but has announced exemptions for a “small number” of fully vaccinated critical workers who are identified as close contacts of coronavirus cases.

Mr Turner called on the Government to test healthy emergency workers daily so they will not automatically be taken off frontline duties.

He told the BBC: “We have got to provide a service. We suddenly find ourselves cancelling rest days and cancelling leave and bringing officers in from other shifts to cover where we have got the gaps.

“However, our call times will go up, we will miss some calls we would normally pick up because we have less resilience in the call centre and all of these things will have a knock-on effect for the Cleveland public.” …

An NPCC spokesman said: “Nationally, the police officer and staff absence rate is 7.3%. However, in some forces some functions, such as control rooms, are experiencing higher levels of absence.

“Absence rates in control rooms affect a police force’s ability to respond promptly to calls from the public, in particular emergency calls.

“Police forces affected are guiding the public on how to contact the police while they are under strain. We are engaging with Government about how to best resolve this issue.”

Worth reading in full.

Police Arrive at House in Riot Van to Check 12 Year-Old Girl Is Self-Isolating

A Manchester mother is demanding an apology from the local police force for sending officers in a riot van to check that her 12 year-old daughter was self-isolating. The young girl was left “petrified” after officers shouted through the house to see if she had been following the rules, according to her mother. The home was visited twice, leading the girl to believe “she was going to get arrested at any moment”. The MailOnline has the story.

Officers visited the home of Kathryn Crook in Middleton, Greater Manchester, to check that Charlotte, 12, was adhering to Covid guidance after catching the virus.

Ms Crook, 45, says her daughter was terrified by the experience, alleging the behaviour of Rochdale Public Health Officers and Greater Manchester Police was “inappropriate and heavy-handed”.

She is now urging those involved to apologise for what she says was “overkill”.

Officers first visited the family home on July 11th and asked to speak directly to Charlotte, before quizzing her mother on whether she was self-isolating.

Ms Crook said: “They would not tell me and my husband why they wanted to speak to my daughter.     

“I suggested again that she was only 12 and as her mother, I should be the one they should speak to.

“My daughter by this time was stood behind me crouching thinking she had done something wrong and was petrified.

“The female police officer who stood at our door then proceeded to shout through to my daughter to check she had been isolating.

“I spent Monday trying to find out why this had happened only to be told by Rochdale Public Health Department that they had authorised this to happen.”

The furious mother later wrote to her MP Chris Clarkson to express her concern, and his office is now investigating the incident.  

She added: “During Monday we also received a letter addressed to our daughter from Rochdale council stating that she must get in touch with them as a matter of urgency about her isolating.

“I called the phone line and they said it was standard practice, even though the leaflet read as if aimed at an adult. I was also told the person who had signed it no longer works there.”

Ms Crook says the family then received another visit from GMP on June 12th.

“We settled down and just after 9pm got a knock at the door,” she said.

“It was the police again, this time in a riot van and coming to ‘check’ again that my daughter was isolating. 

“Me and my husband were so annoyed by this. The neighbours had also seen all of this and came out to show their support for us.

“They could see what had happened and a riot van in the street is a bit much. This time, however, the policeman was polite and was much more forthcoming than the two that had been the previous night. 

“It was terribly upsetting again for my daughter and she had another meltdown again thinking the police were going to arrest her.”

Worth reading in full.

“Equal Opportunity Employer” Las Vegas Police Department Will Not Accept Unvaccinated Recruits

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), which brands itself as an “equal opportunity employer”, has announced that it will not accept new recruits who have not been vaccinated against Covid, with just a few limited exceptions. The Epoch Times has the story.

“LVMPD is requiring all new hire employees to be vaccinated and to show proof of vaccination for Covid prior to being hired,” their application page reads.

At the end of the announcement, they style the Department as an “equal opportunity employer”.

“All appointments to the competitive service shall be made without regard to race, colour, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, genetic information, military service or political affiliation, and shall be based on merit and fitness only,” the statement reads.

There are some limited exemptions in cases such as health and allergies or religious exonerations…

The Employment Diversity Office will have the religious exemption cases forwarded to them for approval, and the health and allergy cases will be sent to the Health and Safety Section for approval…

More than half of U.S. states have banned [vaccine] passports, asserting they present serious privacy concerns and disparate treatment of the unvaccinated.

The President of the largest union of health care workers in the United States says the organisation will fight against companies requiring mandatory Covid vaccines for employees.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., care home workers have been told that they will have to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their jobs. The same rule is also likely to be applied to healthcare workers in other settings, according to reports.

The Epoch Times report is worth reading in full.

Ministers Created Confusion by Not Differentiating Between Lockdown Guidance and Law, Police Watchdog Says

The Police have not been given enough notice about changes in the law and Government guidance relating to Covid over the past year, and confusion has been added by ministers failing to differentiate between the two, according to Britain’s police regulator. A report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services says that “mistakes were made” by the police because of unclear messaging from the Government.

[Officers’ difficulty in enforcing the law was made difficult] by a widespread confusion in relation to the status of Government announcements and statements by ministers. Ministers asserting that their guidance – which had no higher status than requests – were in fact “instructions to the British people” inevitably confused people. In some cases, police officers misunderstood the distinction, and appeared to believe that ministerial instructions were equivalent to the criminal law. 

For example, the two-metre distancing “rule” has only ever been in guidance (aside from some requirements on the hospitality sector such as licensed premises and restaurants). The request to “stay local” has never been a legal requirement. The suggested limits on the number of times a person could go out to exercise in a day and for how long were only ever in guidance, not regulations.

Some forces told us that they sought legal advice on the regulations so that they could produce clear guidance for their workforces. But the speed with which regulations were made and amended (usually by being added to) was great. And to many, the distinction between law and guidance remained uncertain.

In these circumstances, mistakes were made. During the initial lockdown, there was significant media coverage of what was often described as police overreach. High-profile examples included road checks to identify unnecessary journeys, drone surveillance of people in open and almost deserted places, and police action in relation to non-essential shopping and what was thought to be excessive exercise.

The exhortation only to take “essential journeys” was no more than guidance; it was not the law.

The report adds that the muddling up of the law with Government guidelines in these high-profile cases damaged public confidence in the police.

It is not the function of the police to treat Government guidance, however well-intentioned (as it undoubtedly was), as rules of the criminal law. Ministers may create criminal offences only if authorised by parliament to do so; they may not do so by the simple expedient of demanding action from a podium or behind a lectern. 

And as difficulties arose and some well-publicised mistakes were made, public confidence in, and support for, the police were inevitably put at risk.

Worth reading in full.

Police Unable to Deal With Crowds Due to Outdoor Hospitality Rules

While bad weather at the beginning of last week hampered the reopening of outdoor hospitality in some parts of the country, many venues were blessed through the week with sunshine, bringing plenty of Brits out to visit pubs and restaurants for the first time since before Christmas. The rule that all customers must sit outdoors has led to large crowds gathering at makeshift beer gardens in city centres, making it difficult for police to enforce social distancing guidelines. The Telegraph has the story.

Covid rules forcing people to eat and drink outside pubs and restaurants have left police in an impossible position with officers unsure how to deal with large crowds…

In city centres across the country, closed off roads were transformed into makeshift party venues with bars and restaurants offering outdoor seating for customers.

But despite warnings that social distancing rules must be maintained, scenes in areas like Soho in central London suggested little notice was being taken of the law.

As the drink flowed, hundreds of revellers crowded together in the narrow streets, leaving police with the headache of trying to control the crowds.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said yet again the Covid rules had placed frontline officers in a difficult situation.

He said: “We are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation still, and Soho is a prime example. How on earth are we supposed to police that? 

“The local councils have made it easy for people to do pretty much what they want. The council is carrying out regular patrols and are calling the police if there are any major problems but in terms of making sure people stick to social distancing it is extremely difficult.”

John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation, said: “It is clear that alcohol and social distancing do not mix.”

The pub and restaurant trade has also criticised the outdoor hospitality rules, insisting there is no evidence to maintain the ban on indoor venues.

The industry will find out this week if the High Court has granted permission to launch a Judicial Review over the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: “All restrictions have to be removed by June 21st.”

“That is the date when we start our road back to profitability. For us we are holding on but we need the second half of this year to save the Great British Pub. That is it in a nutshell.”

Despite this plea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Government will even stick to the date of the next phase of its “roadmap” out of lockdown – reopening indoor hospitality. Environment Minister George Eustice said on Sunday that it is still “too early to say” whether this unlocking can take place on May 17th because of the threat of new variants, despite the success of the vaccine rollout and the fact that Covid cases have fallen to a seven-month low in England.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Police Shut Down Good Friday Church Service and Threaten Worshippers With £200 Fines for Breaking Covid Rules

Police interrupted a Good Friday church service yesterday, threatening worshipers with £200 fines for breaking Covid rules. Standing behind the lectern, one officer said the service was “unlawful”, adding: “You need to go home.” The Sun has the story.

Cops shut down a Good Friday church service and threatened the congregation with fines.

Two officers were filming striding up to the lectern yesterday to tell worshippers to go home.

They said there were too many people in Christ the King Church, which serves a Polish congregation, in Balham, South London, at 6pm yesterday.

One officer said: “At this moment in time you need to go home.

“Failure to comply with this direction to leave and go to your home address, ultimately could lead you to be fined £200 or, if you fail to give your details, to you being arrested.

“It’s Good Friday and I appreciate you would like to worship, but it is unlawful.”

Police officers stand at the lectern order the congregation to go home

 The church has responded, saying that the police “brutally exceeded their powers”.

We believe… that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason, as all Government requirements were met.

We believe municipal police officials have been misinformed about the current place of worship guidelines, claiming that the reason for their intervention is the continued ban on public celebration in places of worship in London due to the lockdown on January 4th, 2021.

We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer and that our worship has been profaned.

The Sun highlights that “current guidelines do allow worshiping in churches to go ahead, with proper safety reviews and social distancing in place”.

Worth reading in full.

A video recording of this events has been posted on Twitter, and can be watched here.

https://twitter.com/darrengrimes_/status/1378268191969923077

Asbo-Style Bans Imposed to Give Police Powers to Break up Easter Gatherings

Police chiefs across the UK have imposed Asbo-style bans in city and town centres giving officers additional powers to break up Easter gatherings. This includes the power to confiscate items such as alcohol. Those who breach certain orders can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to £2,500. The Telegraph has the story.

Police chiefs have imposed Asbo-style bans in city and town centres across the UK giving officers extra powers to break up groups of Easter revellers.

The dispersal orders allow officers to require anyone aged over 10 engaged in or likely to participate in “anti-social behaviour” to be banned from an area for up to 48 hours.

They also get powers to confiscate items such as alcohol and anyone in breach of the order by refusing to leave or returning within 48 hours can be jailed for up to three months and/or fined up to £2,500.

The move follows large groups of people gathering in city centres this week to celebrate the easing of lockdown and enjoy the warm Spring weather, leaving police struggling to break them up and huge mounds of litter that council officers have had to clear up.

Manchester has issued a 48-hour disposal order for the entire city centre until Saturday 3pm after a rave saw major breaches of Covid regulations and social distancing being disregarded by hundreds of young people.

Warm weather, coupled with lockdown fatigue, has drawn people out of their homes this week, much to the disappointment of the Government which has urged people not to “blow it“.

Inspector Jonathan Shilvock, of Greater Manchester police’s city division, says:

This week we have seen an increase in antisocial behaviour as people gather in large groups and are hostile towards our officers who attempt to engage with them and explain the coronavirus legislation which remains firmly in place even with some of the restrictions now being lifted.

This type of irresponsible behaviour causes concern for local residents and has a negative impact within the community. 

I would like to reassure the public that you will see an increased police presence in the area and our officers will be enforcing the dispersal order where appropriate and issuing fixed penalty notices for breaches of Covid legislation.

Dispersal orders have been imposed in many other areas across the country, including Leeds, Shrewsbury town centre and Nottingham.

Earlier this week, police chiefs warned that the “Rule of Six” is almost unenforceable, but today’s news contradicts reports that, because of this difficulty, officers will take a more “permissive” approach than in lockdown.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

“Rule of Six” Almost Unenforceable, Say Police Chiefs

The “Rule of Six” is almost unenforceable because of the Government’s decision to allow two households to meet outside, say police chiefs. The Telegraph has the story.

Policing chiefs have warned ministers that the “Rule of Six” is virtually unenforceable because of the two-household concession.

As councils began a clear-up of litter left in parks and beaches by people enjoying Tuesday’s heatwave, policing sources told the Telegraph that enforcing the rules had been made “very, very difficult” by the decision to also allow two households to meet outside.

Many threw caution to the wind on Tuesday as beaches, seafronts, parks and promenades were packed in Brighton, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and London. In Birmingham, council teams suspended mowing across parks on Wednesday so they could focus on litter picking instead.

“We made it very, very clear to Government that they have made it almost impossible to enforce the ‘Rule of Six’,” said a policing source privy to the discussions.

“It used to be relatively simple. As long as you can count to six, you can enforce it as seven is beyond the rule. Now you could have 26 people in a group, 13 from each household. That makes it very, very difficult. How do you prove that they don’t live in the same house?”

Because of the difficulty of enforcing the “Rule of Six” in light of changes in Government guidelines, police will take a more “permissive” approach than was taken during last year’s lockdowns.

The source said police were taking a more “permissive” approach than in lockdown as more people were vaccinated and infection levels flatlined or fell.

This meant there was less “enforcement” and more “engage, encourage and explain”, although this would revert if infection rates rose again. …

Police chiefs also warned that there were problems over the change in guidance from “Stay Home” to “Stay Local”, which was open to interpretation. “Local to someone with mobility issues is very different to someone who got there in a helicopter,” said a police source. “It becomes an extra element of difficulty when something is subjective.

“We will have people camping out on the Lake District. They will be driving there because it is only a couple of hours to get there. So what do you do?”

The weather has drawn Brits to the beach this week, as well as the slight relaxation of lockdown rules allowing people to travel out of their local areas. The Mail said that the British public “think it’s all over”.

Mixed Messaging on Lockdown Restrictions Has Created a “No-Win” Situation for UK Police

Mixed messaging from the Government on the enforcement of lockdown rules has created a “no-win” situation for British police, according to John Apter, the Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales. Writing in the Telegraph, John points to research from last month which showed “just one in 10 police officers in England and Wales thought the police powers previously introduced to manage the Covid crisis were clear”.

We have repeatedly called on the English and Welsh Governments to stop issuing mixed messages about Covid regulations to avoid further confusion when lockdown measures are finally lifted. We warned the Prime Minister not to repeat the lack of clarity over last year’s pandemic measures before he formally announced his “route map” out of lockdown. 

Fair-minded, reasonable members of the public – and I know that is the majority – will agree my colleagues have faced an almost impossible task during the pandemic. At Clapham Common, or during the Black Lives Matters demonstrations, anti-lockdown or the many other protests during the pandemic, they have been damned by some when they intervene, and equally damned by others when they do not.

Most members of the public continue to offer my colleagues incredible and much welcome support. But the role of policing the lockdown has become a no-win situation for front line police officers who are simply trying to do their best.

Does the police service sometimes get things wrong? Of course it does. Policing is complex and difficult and police officers often have to make split second decisions in very challenging circumstances. Do individual officers sometimes let their force and their colleagues down? Yes, just as individual politicians, journalists, doctors, teachers, footballers, you name it … there will always be people who do not meet the standards required of them.

But just as the vast majority of the public are fair and reasonable, so too the overwhelming majority of police officers are dedicated, competent public servants who take their responsibilities to their communities incredibly seriously. …

We know that good policing is policing by consent. It is why we listen to criticism, and why we are constantly striving to improve what we do. We strive for clarity in rules and restrictions, because in building that consent, we are often the people having to explain what they are. We strive for understanding of the public, because without it, we cannot properly play our role in keeping them safe.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: More £10,000 fines for breaches of coronavirus rules have been withdrawn than have been paid in full, the Telegraph has revealed.