The chair of South Wales Police Federation says officers are facing “greater hostility” from the public for enforcing lockdown rules.
Steve Treharne says officers are doing the best they can to protect people from Covid-19 and appealed to people to abide by the regulations.
He told BBC Radio Wales’s Breakfast with Claire Summers programme that it was “incredibly busy” over the weekend because of the good weather as crowds defied restrictions, meaning people are only allowed to leave home for essential reasons or exercise, to head to beauty spots. This resulted in fines being issued and car parks closed.
“Our colleagues are exhausted with the volume of people who are out and about,” Steve said.
“It’s incredibly frustrating for our officers and the community at large. We understand people are incredibly frustrated with these restrictions that have been in place for a long while now. However, the rules are quite clear that people shouldn’t be travelling to take exercise.”
Steve added: “We’ve always taken a low-level approach in the first instance to these matters, to engage and explain the legislation, albeit the legislation has been through different forms for over a year.
“There are no limits on the amount of exercise, however, exercise must start and finish at home. That doesn’t include travelling, which is why we’re getting issues.”
Steve said the situation wasn’t helped by the availability of alcohol from off-licences.
“We’ve got people congregating all over the Force area – Cardiff, Penarth, Barry – the off-licences are open, people are purchasing alcohol,” he said.
“And of course that brings significant problems and our officers are now facing greater hostility from members of the public and it’s not really fair.
“Our officers don’t draft the legislation, they’ve got a job to do and they can only enforce the legislation that is there. We hope the public will abide by the spirit of these regulations. It’s for everyone’s benefit.”
He added: “They’re trying to do the job the best that they can to protect our communities and the levels of hostility clearly are increasing from what I’ve been told from my colleagues and they’re at the forefront.”
“We see people saying haven’t you got anything better to do, shouldn’t you be concentrating on crime? And of course we’re doing that as well.
“But this is an added pressure that our officers face day in, day out. They’d rather not be doing it. They’d rather the public abiding by the regulations and then we can concentrate on the other areas of our business to be able to support our communities.”
Steve said that hostility continued to include people threatening to use the virus as a weapon against officers.
“We’ve seen assaults rise year upon year on officers,” he said, “And during Covid it’s been weaponised with people threatening to spit at our colleagues and hope that they and their families get it. It’s simply not acceptable.”
He said it was “shameful” officers were not higher up the priority list for vaccinations, and said there was a “moral obligation” for them to get the jab.
“We’re incredibly angry about the lack of recognition for our colleagues who are on the frontline,” he said.
“We feel that there’s a total lack of recognition as to what our colleagues face on a day-to-day basis. Our colleagues are within hospital settings, they’re the first to emergency first-aid situations, they’re in care homes, they’re within social services, they’re dealing with the most vulnerable people, and working alongside other occupations that have been vaccinated.
“I’d go as far as to say it’s quite shameful. There’s the moral obligation that we’re putting these officers out in order to protect the public from this pandemic in risky situations.”
Listen to the interview in full. It starts at one hour, nine minutes and 23 seconds.
Steve was also featured on Wales Online.