West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman reacts to face coverings announcement

It is unrealistic to expect police officers to become "Face Mask Monitors" once they become mandatory in shops, the chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation has said.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 4:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 4:59 pm

Brian Booth has given his reaction to the news that face coverings will become a legal requirement in shops and supermarkets from July 24.

Those who fail to comply face a fine of up to £100.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would "give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops".

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A woman wearing a mask near The Fenton pub in Leeds (photo: Danny Lawson / PA Wire).

But Mr Booth, who represents police officers right across West Yorkshire, said they simply do not have the manpower to effectively enforce the measure.

He said: “Now the country is waking up from Covid, policing is really busy again.

"It’s unrealistic to expect my colleagues to become Face Mask Monitors in the retail sector.

“We simply do not have enough resources.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth.

“It goes without saying that they will be on hand to deal with the more extreme cases where things have gotten out of hand.

“Shopkeepers must not be left under any illusion that they have a part to play in Engaging, Explaining and Encouraging compliance.”

Mask-wearing has been compulsory on public transport in England and at NHS facilities across the UK since 15 June.

Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt from wearing them.

The 'Four E's' - engage, explain, encourage, enforce - have been used by the police in their response to Covid-19 so far, but John John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said enforcement by police should be "the very last resort".

He added: “The announcement from Government that face coverings for those entering shops will be mandatory will, without doubt, add pressure to police officers who are already being stretched to the limit.

“The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope that will continue and the public will do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens.

“I would call on Government to ensure there is an obligation on all shops to make the wearing of face coverings a condition of entry.

"If not, individuals should not be allowed entry."

Mr Apter suggested shops could provide face coverings to encourage compliance.

He added: “Enforcement must be the very last resort and involve only those few individuals who blatantly ignore guidelines and are a clear health risk to others.

“Only as this last resort should the police get involved. To expect my colleagues to be policing the supermarket aisles, looking for those shoppers not wearing a face covering, is unrealistic and unfair.

“We simply don’t have the resources, and this would fundamentally undermine the model of policing which is to police by consent."