My scrutiny role during the COVID19 pandemic

Angus Macpherson 2017

Throughout the COVID19 pandemic, the policing response from forces across the country has come under great scrutiny.

It has been a difficult balancing act, with officers required to help keep the public safe by upholding the new laws and restrictions brought into place by the Government, while at the same time behaving in a proportionate way.

Here in Wiltshire,  I believe Wiltshire Police have worked hard to get that balance right, and it is my job as Police and Crime Commissioner to act on behalf of the public to scrutinise and question the actions of the Force.

A recent example of this occurred over the weekend, when around 50 people gathered in the Manchester Road area of Swindon on Sunday evening.

It appears that they had congregated for some kind of unofficial party and, understandably, concerned residents contacted police due to the blatant disregard of social distancing and the ongoing restrictions on large gatherings.

Although officers attended quickly and put in place a dispersal order to clear the area, followed by increased patrols of the road throughout the evening, I was contacted the next day by some who were concerned that the police had not acted quickly or robustly enough.

As a result, I spoke to both the Chief Constable and the Assistant Chief Constable to learn more about exactly what happened, and am satisfied that the officers responding on the night acted in a proportionate and effective way to keep the public safe.

I fully appreciate that, as we continue to navigate our way through the COVID19 pandemic, the public are rightly looking to the police to ensure risks to public health are minimised.

And I want to reassure our communities in Swindon and across Wiltshire that I will continue to question any response from the Force when concerns are raised to me - this is a fundamental part of my role. I have now asked the Chief Constable to ensure that both the local Parish Council and the Independent Advisory Group for the area are fully briefed on the matter.

Speaking more broadly, I have been heartened to hear that the public have largely complied with the new rules brought into place last week to ensure people wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we received just three calls about the issue, and these were all relating to businesses not enforcing the rules rather than incidents where specific individuals were refusing to wear them.

Throughout last week, both myself and representatives from the Force were engaging with the two local authorities and local businesses to provide support and assistance, and I am pleased to say that this joined-up partnership approach appears to have paid off.

I hope we will continue to see this positive response from our communities as the summer continues.