Chief Executive Gary Thwaite: Rising to the challenge of policing the coronavirus crisis
Understandably at the moment everything's dominated by COVID-19. As the crisis continues, we as a police service continue to adapt to challenges quickly to ensure the UK critical Nuclear Infrastructure remains secure and the public are kept safe.
Nobody in the police service has been trained to deal with this kind of pandemic. It's unprecedented in living memory. So, there's a lot of learning going on. I've noticed as time goes on, decision making and communications within the CNC at command level are getting slicker as everyone better understands each other's role and responsibilities.
Everything's moving so fast that decisions need to be made quickly, but they still need to be measured and appropriate. It's good to see that these are not just snap decisions with no evidence behind them. The decisions are all very professionally advised, drawing upon medical professionals, health and safety and legal expertise. As a Federation be assured that we continue to represent our members' interests to all command groups, ensuring welfare is paramount.
If you feel we are missing something or may not be aware, please feed your concerns in.
Questions have been raised around the social distancing measures in place to protect our members in the working environment. It's important that everyone understands that these measures are for everyone's protection and to limit the spread of the virus. It's working within our organisation and has protected you, our members.
Where we do have concerns are around PPE and COVID testing and I know from feedback these are issues that bother you. At national level, we are working closely with the other Federations and staff associations to pressure the Government for clarity and action. You may have seen the PFEW's Simon Kempton, getting this point across about PPE and testing kits at the recent Home Affairs Select Committee meeting.
Again at national level, there's been a lot of confusion around what type of testing we need and how PPE is to be issued and used by a police frontline service. This guidance is key to performance and has to come from the top. It is needs to be authoritative, clear and consistent for everyone. At stake is our colleagues' and our families' health. Testing is, of course, important for a number of operational reasons; If we know who's got this virus or who's had it, it enables us to plan resources so we can respond better to incidents.
Lessons will be learned from this pandemic, especially as without a vaccine we are likely to be revisited by Covid-19 until we do. Now that Covid-19 or any similar disease is firmly on the Government's risk register we should be well-stocked with essential protection in the future. But, in the meantime we are where we are and now isn't the time to point fingers.
An area that is a particular annoyance is the attitude toward policing from a few national tabloids, with some seeming to enjoy portraying the police in a negative light because of the unwillingness of some of the public to heed the Government's instruction to Stay at Home. Anti police press stories undermine respect for the police service and can make officers on the frontline more vulnerable to abuse and hostilities. We are all finding our way at a difficult and stressful time for public interaction with frontline services. We remain very aware that we police by public consent and it would help us all through the crisis if more of the public understood that when we intervene, we are trying to save them from themselves. Recent polls show that the vast majority of the general public are supportive of police actions. In short, keep doing what you are doing brilliantly and ignore the anti police brigade even if sometimes, like me, you have to grit your teeth!
The Federation's other business continues almost as usual but has obviously slowed a little. However I've still got quite a lot of meetings scheduled with MPs engaging with them to raise our profile and the concerns you might have including COVID-19. It has taken some adapting doing it by telephone or video conferences, but we're all learning to use the technology and getting more efficient each day.
As always if any of you have any worries about COVID-19 or anything else we're here as a Federation to help anytime: financial, wellbeing or if you need medical advice, we can either help directly or signpost to various support services.
We're quite lucky we have the CNC People Cell and Chief Medical Officer, who's also a current practising GP to call upon. We also have a GP 24 hour on-call service for members who subscribe to the group insurance scheme. Members can just call up and speak directly to a GP over the phone. Also and just as important to remember, is that you all have each other. Sometimes out of sight can be out of mind, so I appeal to you, please keep in touch with the Federation. If you have a worry, share it - just contact me, your local Rep, or your line manager. I know it's a worrying time but it will eventually pass.
And finally, a massive thanks to you all, whether you are in the front line or support role. Everybody's working flat out, so once again your contribution is not only vital but appreciated.