Coronavirus: Police Abusing Their Powers Reissued With Instructions Not to Be Dicks

By Shabana Arif on at

Following the UK lockdown's new rules and the approved coronavirus bill, we're just shocked to hear that police have been slapping people with fines and arrests willy-nilly, and generally getting high on their own farts. Happily, they've been told to calm the fuck down.

The writing was on the wall when PM Boris Johnson announced the 21-day lockdown last week, at which point the Coronavirus Act was already on its way to being approved - which it now is. The emergency bill grants police an alarming and unprecedented amount of power, and wouldn't you know it, they've taken it too far, with multiple instances across the country illustrating why no one trusts a person with a badge and an inferiority complex.

Just this week, transport secretary Grant Shapps, admitted that the police forces nationwide being called out for going "further than they should have gone," although Shapps attempted to downplay this in a mealy-mouthed statement about what a difficult job they're doing, saying if we all fall in line "then there will be no problems." Not a great message for a politician to be putting out there. It's okay for us to take the piss out of people playing silly buggers because we're not government representatives. Officials telling people to 'comply or face the consequences, which have definitely been overboard guys, but you won't have to worry about that if you behave' is crazy. Just a single instance of police abusing their power because they think they've been given carte blanche to do whatever they like should be a big deal, and something that needs to be addressed (and nipped in the bud) at the highest level.

What we've been seeing around the country are checkpoints to stop drivers and interrogate them on where they're going, fines, arrests, and even the use of drones to monitor and record people, and shame them on social media. Why do any police work yourself when you can turn the public against one another and get them to do it for you?

The video highlights people being where they shouldn't be, but then proceeds to add completely irrelevant commentary on the scenes in an effort to ridicule and shame the people captured on film. It becomes apparent that Derbyshire Police's video editor is clearly a bit of a wanker in the first few seconds, but they cement that assumption with the condescending Instagram comment. We're not allowed to stop and take photos now, apparently. Winded on your run? You'll carry on moving. There's no standing still outside. Need to tie your kids' shoelace on a walk? Forget it. Let him faceplant. We're trying to save lives! Former supreme court justice, Lord Sumption, called out the region's police force as "disgraceful" and raised concerns over this type of 'policing' in a BBC Radio 4 interview:

"This is what a police state is like, it is a state in which a government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers’ wishes... The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences but only legal regulations, which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance."

Well the time for making citizens deal with the massive chip on your striped shoulder is over, as the militaristic measures that some forces have been whipping out have been recognised for the danger they present. The fuzz has now been reissued with guidelines on how to behave properly, which is essentially to keep policing as they would under normal circumstances, use the 'four Es' approach, and rummage around for a shred of common sense between them.

The College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have had to clarify to officers exactly what it is that they should and shouldn't be doing, after excuses were made by one police chief (who was caught in a shit storm over his own officers' behaviour) that the new laws are "unclear".

"The coronavirus act and coronavirus regulations do not explicitly confer any powers on police officers to stop vehicles... Use your judgment and common sense; for example, people will want to exercise locally and may need to travel to do so, we don’t want the public sanctioned for travelling a reasonable distance to exercise. Road checks on every vehicle is equally disproportionate.

"We should reserve enforcement only for individuals who have not responded to engage, explain, and encourage, where public health is at risk."

Fines and arrests are last resort measures, and the last of the Es to be used (engage, explain, encourage, enforce). The 'correct' behaviour is actually pretty clear, and has been available online on the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) website since March 26. The guidance continues:

"Use [emergency powers] during the national emergency while honouring the traditions of British policing. We police by consent. The initial police response should be to encourage voluntary compliance.

"There is no power to ‘stop and account’. The police will apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic. This will enable officers to make sensible decisions and employ their judgment. Enforcement should be a last resort."

So if you see any more checkpoints, or an overeager offices tries to rifle through your shopping to see if you really went to buy essentials, take note and report them. Meanwhile, do your part and familiarise yourself with the reissued guidance on exercising outdoors that was delivered this week, so you're not giving rogue officers an excuse to harass you. [The Guardian]