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Police warned against 'over-zealous' use of coronavirus lockdown powers

The police have been warned not to be 'over zealous' when it comes to enforcing the coronavirus lockdown rules.

The force is facing allegations of overreaching in its use of the lockdown powers including fining people £60 for buying items deemed 'non-essential' or for going out for a drive to kill time.

Amid the criticism, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu says officers should be protecting the public but at the same time not go over the top on social distancing rules.

Mr Basu also urged the public not to judge officers too harshly in their application of the powers.

Derbyshire Police were singled out for turning Britain into a 'police state' by Lord Sumption earlier this week after they used drones to discourage people from country walks and dyed the Blue Lagoon near Buxton black to make it less appealing.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Basu called for the public to show understanding toward police, and for officers to “police by consent” as they are compelled to use powers he “never imagined a British police officer would be asked to use”.

“Everyone in policing is acutely aware that how we police this pandemic will be remembered for many years to come,” Mr Basu wrote.

“Preserving the trust and confidence of the public by policing by consent is our mantra, and has been since 1829. There will be a period of readjustment to our new responsibilities, which no police officer ever thought they would have.”

Mr Basu urged officers to heed calls by two of Britain’s most senior officers, Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), that “persuasion and education to do the right thing is our primary goal”, rather than being too quick to impose punishments.

Meanwhile, the NPCC has denied a report in The Guardian saying it is drawing up new guidance for officers not to “over-reach” in their lockdown enforcements as a result of the complaints received.

“We are not rewriting our guidance to officers,” the NPCC tweeted. “It remains the same as it was. Engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce. This is a fast changing situation and we, along with the public, are adapting as we go forward.”

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