COVID vaccines must be rolled out across police forces to ensure public safety, Northumbria police officials have said today.
Northumbria’s Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness, Chief Constable Winton Keenen and Northumbria Police Federation’s Jim Gray are supporting calls for officers and essential police staff to be prioritised, as appropriate, for the vaccine alongside health-workers in order to keep vital public services safe.
Earlier this week the Police Federation called for those serving in our police forces to be soon given access to Covid-19 vaccines, after the most vulnerable members of society and frontline NHS staff.
Backing the calls to prioritise those who are keeping us all safe and policing lockdown, Kim McGuinness yesterday raised the need to vaccinate officers as an urgent matter during a conference call with Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse.
The Commissioner said: “We are in a serious situation and the clock is ticking – the Government needs to apply common sense and get our police vaccinated, and fast.
“No-one can deny the fact that our police officers are out there in the thick of it day in, day out – they’re coming into close contact with a lot of people, in a lot of places. There are, I appreciate, many people who are key workers and deserve to be high on that list too, of course, but for our police the risks are notably huge.
“They’re entering countless homes, being fought with, spat at, coughed at – social distancing isn’t even a choice. The only solution is an urgent vaccination programme and this needs to happen to keep our workforce numbers strong at what is a crucial time for everyone.”
She added: “Yes, we need to protect officers just like they protect us but this is about the much bigger picture too. An officer who gets Covid is either unknowingly spreading it, or, will be isolating and out of action from serving our communities.
“None of this is good and neither should be allowed to happen, not when there is a simple solution – get them vaccinated now. This is ultimately about everyone’s safety and we’ll have to keep shouting until we are heard on this.”
Chief Constable Winton Keenen said: “Throughout this pandemic, officers, staff and volunteers have continued to display unwavering commitment to serving the communities we are privileged to be a part of here in the North East.
“I am immensely proud of the way they have overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19 while also meeting the demands of regular policing.
“In doing so it is important to recognise that, by the very nature of the duties they are carrying out, it is inevitable they will be regularly engaging with members of the public.
“It is right that we should look at how we can best protect both them and those they come into contact with – and also maintain vital policing numbers so we are able to provide the very best service possible.
“I therefore welcome the discussions which are being held to ensure those on the frontline, working to keep us all safe, can also feel assured that a vaccine is on its way to them as soon as the vulnerable groups have been completed.”
Inspector Jim Gray, the Chairman of Northumbria Police Federation, the staff association for rank and file Police Officers, said: “We are calling for officers to be given appropriate priority, after the most vulnerable and frontline NHS staff, for access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Police officers deal with countless and varied interactions with members of the public on a daily basis and it is not always possible to reduce the risk of contracting the virus because the nature of our role is that interactions are often spontaneous, sometimes violent and require the use of force and restraint. This reality means that officers and their families are at significantly increased risk of contracting the virus.”
He added: “It simply cannot be right that police officers, those people who, day in day out, put themselves in harm’s way to uphold the law, protect the public and who are now responsible for policing this pandemic and enforcing Covid-19 linked legislation, have not been identified as a group of people who should be afforded appropriate priority when it comes to the vaccine. Sometimes society should do its bit to protect those who protect us all.”