Police officers should not vilified by the public for doing their best to protect people from COVID-19, Cumbria Police Federation said.
The federation, which represents officers, said officers were working ‘flat out’ to keep the public safe and to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.
Cumbrian officers have been subjected to negative comments as lockdown three imposes strict regulations on the freedom of movement, federation chairman Paul Williams said.
He said: “It is very disappointing to see the negative comments on how our members are policing this situation during COVID.
“They are doing a fantastic job in thankless and strenuous situations that policing has never before seen.
“They are continuously adapting to new legislation and trying their very best to keep the public safe, putting themselves at risk of harm in doing so.
“It’s an impossible situation when you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.
“The public find it easy to criticise the police because we are the public-facing body that has to physically go out there and deal with the breaches that should not be happening,” he added.
“Officers don’t enjoy having to enforce this legislation and would much rather not have to attend and deal with needless breaches.
“The rules are there for a reason, and that is clear, to save lives and stop the overloading of our NHS.
“If enforcement is necessary, then officers need to feel publicly supported and not criticised for doing what they are being asked to do.”
Paul said the stress of continually being on the frontline in the battle against the pandemic is having a real impact on officers’ physical and mental health.
He’s now calling for officers to be near the front of the vaccination queue so they can maintain their resilience and protect the public.
“Cops are human beings as well; they are also catching and suffering from this virus as well as witnessing and suffering the losses that come with it,” he said.
“The vaccination of our officers is something that has to be a priority. The vaccination of NHS staff and the vulnerable is, of course, essential and rightly a top priority.
“However, following this police officers need to be prioritised due to the very nature of the occupation.
“Police officers deal with hundreds of public-facing incidents every day and are naturally are at increased risk of catching and spreading COVID,” Paul added.
“Maintaining the sustainability and resilience of policing is without question vital. When other agencies fall down the police always step in and give that support, but there is no fall back to backfill policing.
“To not prioritise vaccination of police officers will place the country’s policing capacity at huge risk.”