Police Update - 19th April 2020
Further to my letter on 26th March 2020, Police Scotland continues to support the national response to the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. I wanted to share some more information about our approach to recently introduced new laws, as well as some of the wider action we are taking to support officers and staff and, crucially, to keep people across Scotland safe during this difficult time.
Emergency legislation is now in place which underpins the government’s social distancing guidelines and the restrictions which are being placed on the public.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows officers to enforce the testing of individuals with suspected coronavirus. It also allows for the closure of events, gatherings and premises. The regulations give officers the power to enforce social distancing among the wider public, with the sanction of penalty notices where there has been an offence. Police Scotland can issue penalty notices of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days, where they have reason to believe there has been an offence under the regulations. These penalties are doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 cap, with no reduction for early payment.
Due to the exceptional nature of these powers, it is right that the regulations will be reviewed at least every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary.
Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly extraordinary powers, put in place because of the criticality of the threat we face.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has made it clear from the outset that Police Scotland will continue to operate with the support and consent of the public as we all orientate to these significant sacrifices and changes to our lifestyles and daily routines, and has publicly highlighted the high levels of ongoing compliance. We will apply these powers proportionately and with common sense.
I am grateful for the continued overwhelming support and co-operation I have seen thus far.
Social distancing is the key intervention to curtail the spread of coronavirus and it is essential the instructions are followed to protect each other, support key workers, take strain from the NHS, and save lives.
The legal instructions on not leaving home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone. Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances. My officers will continue to be visible in our communities, engaging with people who are out in public and establishing individual circumstances. Officers will explain the risk of non-compliance to public health and the NHS and encourage individuals to follow the guidance.
There will at times, unfortunately, be a number of individuals who, for whatever reason, do not comply and we will use the enforcement powers as a last resort where people continue to defy the clear advice being given by the government and our colleagues in the health service. We will do so in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner and operational guidance has been provided to officers to support this approach. To date, we have only had to use these powers against a very small number of individuals across Dumfries and Galloway.
As the restrictions continue, and the weather improves, there is always the potential that non-compliance could increase. We welcome your continued support to apply the law sensibly and proportionately when the circumstances arise. One example of where we hope understanding and awareness of the regulations will increase is the continued practice of people driving to popular locations to exercise. Scottish Government guidelines encourage people to stay at home and only go outside for essential food, health and work reasons and our officers will continue to engage with those who are not complying with that guidance.
I am encouraged by the extraordinary levels of co-operation and co-ordination that we are experiencing with key partners, and believe that this will be critical to successfully facing up to new demands and challenges that will come in the weeks and months ahead.
We have recently surveyed our officers and staff to provide information to assist discussions about the provision of childcare with our Local Authority. This childcare provision assists us in deploying as many officers and staff to the front-line as possible, in order to maintain high visibility and engagement across the whole country. This visible presence, in every community in Scotland, is an important enabler of ensuring compliance at this critical time for the country. Police Scotland is very grateful for the support of D&G Council in this matter.
We’re also working hard to get additional, and appropriate, personal protective equipment (PPE) to our officers and staff and this is being distributed across the region. It’s important that, as we maintain a high public profile and continue to interact directly with the public, that our officers are appropriately protected.
We’ve also cancelled non-essential training and redeployed officers from back office functions or areas which have seen a decrease in demand.
On behalf of Police Scotland I thank you for your ongoing support and assistance during this challenging time.
I hope this letter provides some level of assurance. If you have any pressing concerns or require specific advice please do not hesitate to contact me or your local officers in the usual way.
Chief Superintendent Linda Jones
Castle Douglas Police Update - 2nd April 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is presenting an unprecedented and dynamic set of challenges. The policing response is crucial to maximise public safety and support the extraordinary work being done by colleagues in the health profession. The crucial role of the police service, particularly at this time, is to support and protect the vulnerable and we will continue to do so.
We are maximising our own resources to ensure that we protect frontline policing. We have a duty to protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people in Scotland. The new emergency legislation has been introduced to help us save lives. We police by consent, with the support and compliance of the public. That has never been more important than right now. The vast majority of people in Scotland are complying with advice. We are asking people to listen to the advice, to stay at home and to help us keep you and your loved ones safe. The policing style adopted will be central to maximising the compliance of our fellow citizens. Officers will:
Engage: ask whether an individual is aware of the government request; establish individual circumstances and how quickly someone can comply
Explain: the risks to public health and to the NHS in line with government guidance
Encourage: voluntary compliance
Enforce: if faced with non-compliance and only as a last resort.
We will use the enforcement powers as a last resort only where people continue to defy the clear advice being given by the government and our colleagues in the health service. We will do so in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner.
The government has instructed people to stay at home except for a very small number of reasons. We are relying on everybody, collectively, to address this absolutely unique and extraordinary time in our history.
We rely on the consent of the public and the vast majority of people in Scotland are complying with the instruction from government. People in Scotland are being asked to stay at home and only go outside if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. These include shopping for necessary food, household and medical supplies, travelling to and from work where working from home is not an option, and daily exercise that adheres to social distancing guidance. We have been given extraordinary powers in an extraordinary situation. We are visible, on patrol, 24 hours a day and we can engage with businesses and people gathering in public spaces in defiance of the instructions to encourage them to follow the government advice and stay home. We will challenge those who don’t and if people continue to defy what is very clear advice, we will use these powers as a last resort.
The Coronavirus Act 2020, passed by the UK Government, allows police officers, and other officials, to assist in the enforcement of some of the restrictions being put on the public. It means that officers can enforce the testing of individuals with suspected coronavirus. It also allows for the closure of events, gatherings and premises. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 allow officers to close businesses and premises which flout the government’s guidance. The regulations also give officers the power to enforce social distancing among the wider public with the sanction of penalty notices where there has been an offence.
Police Scotland can issue penalty notices of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days, where they have reason to believe there has been an offence under the regulations. These penalties are doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 cap, with no reduction for early payment. Due to the exceptional nature of these powers, the regulations will be reviewed at least every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary.
We have a hugely committed and driven workforce with a shared purpose to keep people safe. Officers and staff are delivering a first class service during this unprecedented and challenging situation. Our people are working long hours, volunteering to be redeployed or to be given extra duties, and cancelling leave to maintain response levels and keep our communities safe. Policing, like all of society, will be impacted by this virus. We have seen an increase in absence but we have started to move our officers and staff around to mitigate the impact of any absences.
We are maximising resources for local policing divisions and other critical areas of frontline policing to keep people safe. This includes cancelling non-essential training and redeploying officers from back office functions, from some custody and court duties and from border security and airports. We are considering mechanisms to give our new recruits core training that might allow us to deploy them earlier than we would normally. We have asked employers to consider providing paid leave to members of their staff who are special constables to allow them to support the national effort to tackle the coronavirus. We have prioritised frontline response and are continuing to provide a policing service right across the country. Having a single force to respond to a national emergency means we can make decisions very quickly. We can quickly move people to where they are needed to respond to any given situation and also to address gaps opening up elsewhere due to illness or extra demands of local circumstances. In terms of potentially bringing back retired officers, it’s something we’ve looked at but at this stage we don’t believe it’s necessary.
We have a duty to keep our workforce safe and are providing advice to officers and staff, based on the guidance from the UK and Scottish Governments. There is no doubt that our officers and other emergency service colleagues play a crucial role at this time to protect our communities. However, any of our officers or staff who show symptoms of coronavirus or who fit the other criteria for isolating will be required to follow the guidance. Officers and staff have been advised to follow health hygiene guidelines, including washing hands correctly with warm water and soap, to help mitigate any risk.
At this time we are being flexible and putting in measures in place to support our workforce, including working from home where we are able to. We are continually reviewing these measures and are examining additional ways of ensuring we can get people back to work as quickly as possible if they don't need to be off.
There are, and will continue to be financial implications, in respect of our response to COVID-19. This is being tracked and collated.
We have been working continuously to procure the best quality and fastest deals for our staff ever since the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak became clear. Purchasing safety equipment is complex and the service has repeatedly simplified and streamlined processes to meet this urgent need head on. A large training programme is also under way to ensure that our officers are fully briefed on the correct use of the equipment which is being supplied. Training for the entire Flexible Response Unit and Operational Support Unit is complete and we have now begun rolling out training for use of the full kit across local policing divisions. With 1,400 people having completed their training so far, we are currently training 130 officers a day and hope to increase this number in the near future.
The kit includes protective suits, disposable goggles, boot covers and gloves, as well as disposal bags, FFP3 face masks, which require face-fitting. Risk assessments carried out specifically for the police have identified the FFP3 mask as the one which gives the required level of protection but face-fitting, a requirement set by the Health and Safety Executive, must be undertaken correctly to ensure optimal protection for both officers and members of the public. Officers and staff who will be receiving FFP3 masks will be contacted directly in order to be face fitted and tested. All officers being fitted with FFP3 masks will need to be clean shaven for the fitting appointment and are required to remain so as we continue to respond to the impact of coronavirus.
We are committed to making sure that every one of Scotland’s citizens is looked after. Our primary responsibility is to leave victims of crime feeling safe and we will continue to make sure that those who are living alone, the elderly, the vulnerable are given full protection. We are in the process of accelerating the roll-out of our Contact Assessment Model of triaging and responding to calls from the public. The enhanced decision-making model of threat, risk and harm has already been introduced in a number of local divisions. We hope to accelerate the roll-out of this model, so that the whole of the country benefits more quickly and we will be able to do even more to protect the vulnerable and ensure every individual gets the right response when they contact us. These changes will allow us to maximise resources for frontline policing to keep people safe.
If someone reports a crime, it will still be dealt with but perhaps in different ways as we increasingly prioritise our demand to reflect the exceptional needs of this pandemic. People reporting a minor crime may find it being dealt with by officers on the phone. We will always aim, where at all possible, to find ways to assist those who are particularly vulnerable in our communities. Recent changes to the Lord Advocate’s Guidelines will help ease the pressure on the justice system at this critical time. There are very clear priorities set out for the investigation and prosecution of crimes, and those breaking the law will be dealt with to ensure the public is kept safe from risk and harm. Offenders who are bailed can be subject to rigorous restrictions, but if public safety is best served by remanding them in custody, we will do all we can in partnership with the Crown to make sure that happens. Police Scotland is able to take action in a decisive manner about how best to use resources and move them around while avoiding the inevitable delays from making decisions by committee. We have a single service, and the value of that is clearly shown at critical times like the present.
Police Scotland is working closely with the Crown Office and the wider justice system to protect people from crime and the threat of COVID-19, while also upholding people's human rights. Our priority is, as always, to ensure the people of Scotland are protected and policed effectively. Those breaking the law will be dealt with appropriately to ensure the public is kept safe from risk and harm through rigorous conditions for release and, where necessary, holding people in custody for court.
101 is not an information line for COVID-19. Please act responsibly and help Police Scotland deliver the best possible response to those who really need it. Visit nhsinform.scot/coronavirus and gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ for the latest guidance on COVID-19.
We are aware that there is an increased risk of domestic abuse as people observe isolation and social distancing guidance. We will continue to respond to all calls domestic incidents. We issued the following advice on our social media channels at the weekend (21/3/20). Domestic abuse is not just physical or sexual abuse, it includes abusive behaviours, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse and can be committed anywhere including online. It is about power and control, with abusers using controlling behaviours to frighten, humiliate and isolate victims from those who can offer them support.
No-one should live in fear of abuse. We want people to feel safe in their communities. We want to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk. Domestic abuse is everyone's business. Domestic abuse is not acceptable, and it's not inevitable. If you, or anyone you know, are being abused or are at risk of abuse, please contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Or if you need support please contact Scotland's domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline on 0800 027 1234, where support is available 24/7.
There will be no change to how we respond to child protection issues. Protecting children and reducing harm remains a priority for Police Scotland. We will always respond to calls suggesting a child may be at risk. Scotland has robust child protection measures in place with a well co-ordinated, and committed multi-agency approach in place to identify, support and protect children who may be at risk.
How can vulnerable protect themselves from fraudsters in terms of doorstep crime and online? With social distancing and self-isolation more of us are at home than is usual. Scammers know this. People may find strangers on their doorstep offering bogus help or services. Or they may be contacted by telephone or on social media. We have just launched a new campaign (24 Mar) Shut Out Scammers, advising people to be cautious – don’t let the scammers fool you. Our advice is please be cautious - don’t let them fool you. Look after yourself, look after each other and look after your family.
For more information visit: www.scotland.police.uk
Police Scotland has opened a Multi-Agency Coordination Centre to allow partners from other emergency services, the NHS, local authorities and other organisations to respond to the impact of coronavirus on Scotland's communities. The centre, based in a Police Scotland control room at Bilston Glen, Midlothian, but operating virtually, will allow members of the Scottish Resilience Partnership to coordinate a joint response to this major incident. We have been planning and preparing for this outbreak for some time and standing up the Multi-Agency Coordination Centre will help to coordinate the response to issues arising from the impact of coronavirus. Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham has tasked Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams with chairing Strategic Coordination Group meetings on behalf of partners as we move forward with our response to coronavirus. These are exceptional circumstances and we are confident that the partnership will continue to work together successfully, as it has done on numerous occasions previously. Working alongside our partners, we are ready and able to respond to ensure the safety of the public during these unprecedented times.
Castle Douglas Community Police Constable
Police Scotland / Poileas Alba
Castle Douglas Police Office
Tel / Fòn: 101 / 241118
ISSI No: 6050297