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Letter: Policing the Pandemic: Nice, Nasty or Just Confused?

Published on: 13 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 13 Sep, 2020
From: Paul Kennedy
 
Lib Dem candidate for Surrey PCC
For weeks, Government has been telling us to restrict gatherings to six, while the law said 30. Not surprisingly, people were confused. Police chiefs were right to demand the legislation be brought into line.

But the Dragon’s interview with Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner (and wannabe Mayor) David Munro only adds to confusion. He says he wants Surrey Police to be nice, but nasty (or alternatively nasty, but nice?). The professional approach to policing the coronavirus regulations recommended by the College of Policing is Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce.

He says the new tougher rules will make the police’s job harder. But senior police officers tell me the opposite. They say policing was never easier than during full lockdown, when the only drivers on the road were emergency workers and criminals. What makes the police’s job harder is mixed messages from the government, and from the PCC.

Finally, Mr Munro seems confused about what his job actually is. The law requires him to hold Surrey Police to account on behalf of residents. But instead he sounds like a police spokesperson: “We don’t want to enforce, we want to be on the community’s side …”

Two years ago, the National Police Chiefs Council published a devastating critique of the PCC regime, and how it has undermined chief constables, increasing turnover and deterring senior officers from applying. The government is belatedly responding with a review of the PCC role, although Home Secretary Priti Patel’s chief complaint is that PCCs are too “cosy” with their chief constables.

Sadly, we’re stuck with PCCs for as long as we have a Conservative Home Secretary determined to sound tough on law and order while simultaneously creating confusion and undermining the rule of law. Is it too little to expect our PCC not to make things even worse?

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