Hampshire chief constable 'genuinely baffled' at lack of vaccine priority

The chief constable of Hampshire Constabulary says she is “genuinely baffled” as to why police officers have not been placed on the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Feb 24, 2021
By Tony Thompson

Olivia Pinkney, who was speaking at the first ever virtual open meeting of the Hampshire Police Federation, which was attended online by more than 150 officers, said: “You can’t police from two metres… I am genuinely baffled as to why police officers and other frontline colleagues are not on the priority list. I keep pushing for it. Martin Hewitt from the National Police Chiefs’ Council is making the case to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary.”

Zoe Wakefield, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said: “We did not expect to even be considered before NHS workers and the most vulnerable but for us to not be given the protection now is just wrong. The Government are not listening to numerous chief constables, police and crime commissioners or the Police Federation both nationally and locally.

“Or are they listening but they just don’t care about the risk officers are putting themselves in every day and how that risk transfers to vulnerable members of the public? How long will it take for all 3,000 officers to be vaccinated? All that time the risks continue for both you, the public and your families.”

The meeting heard how the pandemic has caused a number of issues for police officers, including flexible working problems as a result of no childcare, difficulties getting children into school, the cancelling of leave, concerns around personal protective equipment and access to testing, as well as the vaccine.

The challenge of enforcing more than 60 pieces of Covid-19 legislation that have been brought in over the past year – for both police officers and the public – was also highlighted.

Ms Wakefield said it was difficult “trying to get your head around a new piece of legislation that came in that day via an email or Power Point before going out on patrol”.

“Not only understanding it well enough to be able to explain it to the public but also the numerous exemptions to the rules. A tough ask on top of your demanding day job,” said Ms Wakefield.

She added that the Covid-19 pandemic has created the “most difficult and challenging times both personally and professionally” for police officers.

The meeting also heard about the reality of the number of assaults suffered by Hampshire Constabulary officers.

“I have met with Kate Anderson, the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wessex Crown Prosecution Service, about the sentences given to those who assault emergency workers,” said Ms Wakefield. “There are huge inconsistencies. The week I spoke to Kate there had been a case where an offender had received a decent custodial sentence and another where the judge felt sorry for him as he’d only come out of prison that day and he didn’t have anywhere to live.

“I explained to Kate that there is no point in the Home Secretary increasing the maximum sentence for these assaults if the courts are not going to utilise that power.”

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