Officers policing protests during lockdown in "impossible position", says federation leader
- Credit: SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION
Frontline police officers enforcing lockdown rules on protesters are in "an impossible position", the county's federation leader has said.
Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said it was "just not fair" for politicians who make the laws to then criticise officers who enforce them.
Mr Harris' comments came after the Metropolitan Police was accused of being heavy handed in its treatment of women who gathered in memory of Sarah Everard in Clapham on Saturday.
The 33-year-old went missing while walking home in south London on March 3, and her body was found in Kent the following week.
Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with kidnapping and killing the marketing executive.
Speaking generally, Mr Harris said: “Officers in Suffolk are out there keeping people safe each and every day and we mustn't forget colleagues go out and put themselves in harm's way, deal with human tragedy, protect the vulnerable and help those in need.
“Right to protest is an essential part of democracy. As is policing facilitating peaceful protests and demonstrations without fear or favour. However at the moment the government - and therefore the law - has deemed large gatherings illegal to keep people safe due to the pandemic. We have to police that.
“What we can’t have is the politicians who make these laws then criticise police officers for enforcing them. That’s just not fair. And puts our colleagues in an impossible position. So it’s important that everyone remembers that as part of the public debate.”
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Meanwhile, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt called for greater clarity over how forces are expected to deal with demonstrations during the pandemic.
Currently, there is no definitive answer as to whether a protest is legal in lockdown.
Police forces are expected to look at each demonstration individually, and weigh up the right to protest versus the risk to public health.
He said: "You are balancing different rights, you are balancing legal regulations, you are balancing health and safety.
"They are very difficult decisions for commanders on the ground to make in any set of circumstances.
"Where we are at the moment, where we are under Covid regulations, we have got the public health threat of the pandemic, those decisions have been made even harder for commanders."