Police warned to be “consistent” after using controversial tactics to enforce lockdown

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Police officers across the UK have been instructed by the government to be more "consistent" in their approach to applying lockdown measures, after questions of professionalism were raised by critics. 

What is the new advice?

According to the BBC, a document from the National Police Chiefs' Council and the College of Policing has outlined the need for communities to receive a "consistent" level of service as well as a "single style and tone" from the police. 

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It also encourages the police to keep an "inquisitive, questioning mindset" when questioning those who have left their homes, while also stating officers should not apply the newly granted enforcement measures on the vulnerable.

Reiterating the new guidance, The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) took to Twitter to explain that the police’s job is to “engage, explain, encourage, &, only as a last resort, enforce.”

"Police have been given an unprecedented role in enforcing new regulations for #covid19UK."

"With @CollegeofPolice we'll continue to support officers & staff to use these regs working with the public" the post read.

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Why has this new advice been issued?

Last Thursday (Mar 26) police were issued with new powers to fine people who gather in groups or refuse to follow the government’s advice to remain home and travel only when absolutely necessary, such as buying groceries.

However, some police forces have faced criticism over a lack of professionalism in their handling of the government measures, which aim to prevent the spread of the virus.

One force facing criticism is Derbyshire Constabulary, who have recently taken innovative measures to ensure the new government rules are adhered to.

Taking to social media, last Thursday (Mar 26) the force posted drone footage of walkers in the Peak District, to shame those found travelling from their homes for their hour of daily exercise.

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While last Wednesday (Mar 25) they also attempted to deter visitors from a popular beauty spot in Buxton, known as ‘blue lagoon’ by dyeing the bright blue waters black.

One critic of such actions, Lord Sumption, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, told the BBC the force's filming of walkers had been "disgraceful" and had "shamed our policing traditions".

"The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government's command," he said.

The chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Andy Marsh has claimed that officers wish to keep a friendly relationship with the public in order to work together during the crisis.

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"We're not going to enforce our way out of this problem,” he said.

Defending the police

However, not everyone has been critical of the force’s actions. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the police forces, stating they have been sensible about enforcing social distancing measures while doing a difficult job.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Martin Hewitt said the police were merely "finding their way" in unprecedented times.