LEICESTER, United Kingdom – The bishop liaison to the Catholic Police Guild of England and Wales has warned against “a show of heavy-handedness” in the enforcement of coronavirus lockdown rules in the country.
The United Kingdom went into lockdown on March 23 to stop the spread of COVID-19, requiring people to stay at home at all times with limited exception, such as going to the grocery store or getting daily exercise.
Last month, the Home Affairs Committee of Parliament raised concerns that police officers were overstepping the letter of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and charging people with offenses if they ignored the government’s “advised conduct,” which is more restrictive than the law.
Examples of police officers harassing people in parks, giving fines to children, and suggesting they could check shopping bags for “non-essential” items filled social media.
“Our police forces have had to adapt to maintaining law and order in new circumstances. Without the general public’s goodwill and consent the job would be impossible. That general compliance comes in response to police tolerance and understanding,” said Bishop Tom Burns in a May 1 letter.
“Whilst back-up is available to combat the uncooperative, a show of heavy-handedness rarely triumphs over extending the hand of empathy,” he said.
The bishop also noted that the police forces have not escaped the “evil tentacles” of the coronavirus.
“Officers and support staff have been afflicted or have had to self-isolate; others have had to step in to cover their duties. The criminal fraternity has disgracefully exploited these times for their own greed and advantage,” he continued. “But police tact and good humor have continued to win the day in the eyes of a generally grateful public. This has induced compliance with police directions. It has avoided challenges to authority and the risk of overthrowing it. It has reflected mutual patience and consideration.”
Burns said that in recent months, people have been showing “respect and unity” as they face the pandemic crisis.
“People have been pulling together, contributing time and resources, helping each other out, re-stocking food-banks, delivering food and necessities, raising money for charity, and a host of other kindnesses and acts of selflessness on a larger scale than I have ever seen before in my lifetime,” he said.
“For, we are all in this together, whether we wear a uniform or not. But some are more exposed than others. They are on the front-line. More than anyone, they know that what we have today we may not have tomorrow.”
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome