'A challenge like no other': South Yorkshire Police Federation describes policing during Covid pandemic

Policing in South Yorkshire during the Covid pandemic has been described as a ‘challenge like no other’.

Reflecting on a year of policing since the pandemic was declared and lockdown measures were imposed in a bid to save lives, Steve Kent, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, praised officers for the way they have responded.

The Police Federation represents the interests of rank and file officers across South Yorkshire.

Mr Kent said: “It’s been a year since the first Covid-19 lockdown came into force, and it’s been a challenge like no other.

Steve Kent, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, has reflected on a year of policing during the Covid pandemic

“From early fears about the lack of PPE, catching the virus and potentially spreading it to their families, to the sheer exhaustion of not getting the breaks they need, South Yorkshire Police officers have been through it all.

“At the start of the pandemic, many officers feared they might die, given they had to be out there mixing with the public so much, yet they’ve continued to protect their communities.”

And with a summer of high demand expected as lockdown restrictions are eased, the Police Federation fears local officers will not feel any easing of pressure until at least the autumn.

Mr Kent said: “It’s been a roller coaster.

“The frustration for officers throughout Covid is that they have been at the frontline of this, they haven’t been able to let up and they’ve been almost the lightning rod for public opinion about whether we’re dealing with stuff too harshly or too easily.

“They’re just a little bit fed up that they don’t get a break from it, and I think that’s culminated in the last couple of weeks; it’s reached a crescendo.”

Looking back at the early days of the pandemic, he said: “Officers were scared, and I encouraged the force to get more understanding out there and more detail about the dangers of it.

“Officers literally thought they were going to die. I had messages from them saying that.

“Thankfully, we have seen deaths amongst officers at quite a low rate, and that’s in no way any disrespect to those officers who have passed away through Covid because it’s absolutely awful.

“But the things put in place have kept those deaths actually much lower comparatively than our colleagues in the NHS.

“For cops, the lockdown release is going to be postponed until autumn at the earliest because we’re not going to be able to do anything for that period of time.”

He said South Yorkshire Police has seen one the lowest absenteeism rates throughout the pandemic.

“The force has done an amazing job and throughout this whole pandemic, we’ve had one of the lowest absence rates because of Covid-19,” he said.

“We’ve not been that far off normal levels throughout, give or take a few spikes, and that is testament to our officers in terms of the way they’ve been professional about PPE, and because they want to be here, they want to carry on looking after the people of South Yorkshire and their colleagues.

“So absolutely credit because it’s due.”

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