There has been praise for the way that Wiltshire Police has used positive and innovative practice in a national inspection report examining how police forces responded to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Policing in the Pandemic report, released today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), looks at how all 43 forces across England and Wales reacted to the pandemic.
The 78-page report highlights a number of examples where Wiltshire Police provided a stand-out service for both its workforce and the general public.
• The work done internally to ensure police officers and staff understood the risks from hidden harms during the pandemic restrictions. Here in Wiltshire, staff from public protection roles gave presentations over five weeks to all frontline uniformed staff. This included topics such as hidden harms, modern-day slavery, vulnerable adults, missing and exploited children, coercive and controlling behaviour within relationships, and building prosecutions without the victim’s support.
• We also created a dedicated page on our website, which ensured our local communities understood the Force response and could easily access information and advice from partner agencies. Our web page, which was set up in the very early days of the pandemic, included in-depth information about the work the Force was carrying out, including how we were keeping our workforce and our communities safe, as well as regular updates such as press releases and vlogs from the Chief Constable.
• We worked hard to ensure we were using our powers fairly and proportionately, setting up a process to monitor each stage of the Four Es approach (engaging, explaining, encouraging and, as a last resort, enforcement). This included creating a database for each ‘E’.
• We also had a scrutiny panel in place to ensure we were issuing fixed penalty notices in a proportionate way and that no particular group was being disproportionately impacted.
• Our work to safeguard our workforce was also mentioned, particularly our efforts to ensure line managers were maintaining contact with shielding/self-isolating staff and home workers. Our online HR system kept a record of all contact line managers had via video calls, including a description of individual needs and any support offered.
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard welcomed the report and said he felt incredibly proud of how Wiltshire Police had risen to the various challenges thrown up by the pandemic. He said:
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented all of us with unprecedented and ever-changing challenges and I am incredibly proud of the way all my officers, staff and volunteers have risen to this challenge.
“We have put our communities at the heart of everything we have done and worked closely with partner agencies to ensure a consistent, considered and joined-up approach to this public health emergency.
“In this country we police by consent and we have been transparent in our approach to policing the Government’s Covid restrictions, largely focusing on engagement and encouragement, and only using enforcement action when it is justified and necessary.
“I hope people across Swindon and Wiltshire have felt confident in Wiltshire Police’s response to the pandemic, and I would like to thank our communities for your support over the past year.”
“I feel very proud to read this report and see how Wiltshire Police has gone above and beyond to not only protect the public, but also consider the welfare of our officers and staff.
“A police force is only as good as the people within it and I have always been passionate about workforce welfare – my officers and staff do an incredibly challenging and demanding job and it is only right that we do everything we can to ensure they feel safe and valued.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson welcomed the key findings and applauded the efforts of staff and officers during three national lockdowns and a global pandemic. He said:
“My office has worked closely with the force and has had full oversight of Wiltshire Police’s approach throughout the pandemic. Never had the engagement between us been more important or carried such significance.
“As Wiltshire Police navigated policing in a pandemic – a phenomenon not experienced before – it has been vital that policing continued to be with the consent and support of the public. Ensuring the Force responded to any public concerns on how policing would be implemented throughout the county were reflected and informed any approach.
“Only through this appropriate challenge and scrutiny can the public have confidence that police powers were applied consistently, fairly and proportionately. This scrutiny included a thorough, and transparent review, of all enforcement action taken and I am pleased the report’s findings recognised and reflected this.
“Consistent, frequent, engagement with our communities, alongside regular partnership briefings with council leaders, MPs and health representatives within the county, meant our community felt sufficiently updated about the Force’s approach and had opportunities to question and challenge both myself and the Chief Constable.
“These examples show just why Wiltshire Police has been able to innovate, adapt, and provide such a great service in turbulent times.
“I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all police officers, staff and volunteers for their hard work and dedication throughout the past year. They are true public servants, potentially putting their own health, and the health of their loved ones, at risk to serve their communities and I applaud them for that.”