Coronavirus: What does lockdown mean for West Country police forces?

On the first day of lockdown (Tuesday 24 March) we look at how police in the South West have responded and what it means for them and the public.

Last night’s announcement from the Prime Minister means police forces across the country will have to do something they have never previously needed to take responsibility for – enforcing a lock-down to ensure the virus does not spread and the public are kept safe.

Martyn Underhill, Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset

Avon and Somerset Police

'Please stay home, save lives' is the message from Avon and Somerset Police.

In a statement released today, Chief Constable Andy Marsh says: "This is a health emergency and I can’t say it any more starkly as that."

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens also spoke about why extreme lockdown measures have been put in place.

Advice given so far, to ensure social distancing, has not had the desired effect on changing people’s social habits and behaviours. I would urge people to stop wasting time thinking of any reason to believe that the rules don’t apply to you.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens

The force says it still needs to seek 'further clarity from the government' around the new legislation announced in the Prime Minister's statement.

Once the legislation is in place they will then enforce the new measures.

This will give forces will then have the powers to break up and potentially fine anyone meeting in groups of more than two people.

The Chief Constable said: "Initially we will be seeking to persuade those not listening to the advice to do the right thing – this will be through talking to people and reasoning with them. I am confident people will listen. This is for all our safety."

The police will also have the powers to close all non-essential business which remain open throughout this time. The Chief Constable said they will work with local authorities to do so. He said:

Non-essential businesses have been told to close and we will work with local authorities to make sure this is respected. I want to thank all those businesses which have already followed the advice and shut – you will have saved lives.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh

If staffing levels dropping due to illness, the force say they will have more special constables helping out on the frontline.

I am asking you again, please adhere to the Prime Minister’s message and make sure our officers’ time is not unnecessarily taken up enforcing measures we all know we must follow. Help us, to help you. Stay at home, save lives.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh
Credit: ITV West Country

Devon and Cornwall Police

Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew said that Devon and Cornwall police officers would be deployed 'with immediate effect' to encourage people to adhere to the government lockdown measures.

Over the next few days, additional legislation will be made available to the police, however I anticipate the vast majority of people within our communities will adhere to these restrictions. We each have a part to play to protect the loved ones in our communities and by doing this we can save lives.

Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew

He continued: "As part of the Local Resilience Forum we have been working with key partners for several weeks developing plans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. There are over 30 partner agencies in the resilience forum who, as part of the local communities themselves understand what is required and we have a range of measures in place to ensure core services are maintained for vulnerable members of the community."

Gloucestershire Police

We're working around the clock to understand what the legislation will mean, and we'll share this with you in due course.

Chief Constable Rod Hansen

In a statement by Chief Constable Rod Hansen he said police have been told to 'focus on policing by consent, working with people.'

He said: "Enforcement should be a last resort as we hope people will listen and cooperate."

Gloucestershire police officers have been encouraged to work from home where possible and split teams to work 'in tactical locations across the county' in order to limit face-to-face contact.

In a statement Chief Constable Rod Hansen said how some officers had cancelled leave to make up staff numbers, and others were working longer shifts.

They will also be calling upon special constables.

Police Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said that small businesses will be protected during this time.

I understand that many small businesses in particular will be facing problems over their cash flow. The Constabulary has assured me that all verified invoices will be paid on receipt irrespective of previous agreed terms.

PCC Martin Surl
Credit: ITV West Country

Dorset Police

Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, has said he 'knows personally the seriousness of the situation' as he himself is having to self-isolate whilst his wife has symptoms.

He continues in his statement to say that co-operation from the public is key. He says: "British policing, unlike policing in some other countries, is founded on respect and engagement with the public."

He continued to say this also applies to how we treat each other.

Our county is well known for having an older population, as well as more isolated rural communities, and one of my main priorities has always been to look after the most vulnerable in society.

Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill

He continued: "But as a country we step up when the going gets tough. History proves that time and time again, and now we must all step up to look after our family, friends and community."

The force also warned against cyber criminals trying to take advantage of the crisis: "Please be aware that these scams are operating and if possible warn older relatives to be careful".

Dorset Police have advised public to follow government advice around 'good hygiene, access to health services, social distancing and self-isolation'.

Wiltshire Police

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said he is unsure what the coming months will hold both for the police service and the general public, but he is 'determined to ensure people continued to have the utmost confidence in local policing'.

Please do not be worried – we will still be answering emergency calls, we will still be a visible presence in our communities, and we are continuing to investigate crimes.

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know