Responding to COVID-19: Mike Cunningham shares his thoughts with WeCops

On 1 April, the CEO of the College of Policing, Mike Cunningham, and Chief Constable Andy Rhodes took part in a special WeCops (@wecops) Twitter discussion, focused on the policing response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

WeCops chats are hosted every two weeks on Twitter. WeCops is a network of police practitioners designed to encourage engagement and debate between frontline police officers and staff.

Here, Mike shares his reflections on the WeCops chat around responding to COVID-19.

The national response to reduce the spread of COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for emergency services. The College of Policing recognises the critical role of police officers and we thank you for all the work that you are doing. I wanted to host a WeCops session to hear first-hand the experiences of frontline officers and staff, in order to better understand how we can support you in the coming weeks and months. We're all in this together and your views are a key part in the joint response from the College, NPCC, Oscar Kilo (the National Police Wellbeing Service) and all forces.

At the College, our work has been to issue relevant and up-to-date guidance on how to implement the law and other government directions on social distancing. The key message is that we want the public to stay at home. The brand new legislation, and the speed with which it was implemented, have presented a unique challenge to police officers and staff. It's clear that policing is once again rising to this challenge.

The discussion was insightful. You've made it clear that it is not the responsibility of officers to interpret vague instructions. You asked for more clarity to help you distinguish between guidance and law, with leaders suggesting that there is further work that the College could do to support them in guiding their staff. You also shared ideas and current practice, including daily orders, pocket book guides and briefing packs for supervisors to use during their shifts. The challenges of working from home and from on-site locations was also highlighted.

We have heard about a variety of good practice examples where our police officers and staff are going beyond the call of duty to protect the public - in particular those who are most vulnerable. There was a sense of optimism around the changing ways in which we work and the potential for sustaining some of these positive changes in the future. 

Last year, the College of Policing launched a National Map of Police Ideas, which helped us collect hundreds of ideas from across the UK on how we can improve the ways in which we protect the public. This exchange of ideas is now more important than ever before.

We want to hear from you on what you think policing should be doing to work through this challenge together. The COVID-19 Police Ideas Survey is solely for the purpose of communicating with frontline officers, staff and volunteers. We want to find out what works, what could work and how we can bring some of these ideas to life or scale them up quickly to help us respond to COVID-19.

Finally, we recognise that the confusion and uncertainty can sometimes be more stressful than the job itself. Many of these challenges were raised during the WeCops chat and I know the National Police Wellbeing Service is evaluating and acting upon them to provide further support.

Once again, thank you for all the hard work and commitment each and every one of you are showing during this difficult time. Please be assured that we are working hard to make sure you receive the right information at the right time, in a way that is meaningful to the work you do. Please continue to share your ideas and good practice with us. I promise we will continue listening to you, sharing your ideas and acting on your behalf to help you respond effectively during this global pandemic.

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