Hastings police chief proud of response to Covid-19 pandemic
District commander for Hastings and Rother Police Chief Inspector Sarah Godley said she is ‘really proud’ with the way her officers have handled the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, and the extra responsibilities the force has been handed as a result of the crisis.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Chief Inspector Godley said the police were having to respond to changing rules at the same time as the general public, before putting in place plans to enforce the new regulations.
She praised her officers for the way they reacted to the crisis: “What you have to remember is that police officers are human as well. Police officers are like the general public – they want to protect their families – but they also wanted to be able to help during this crisis.
“Our front line PCs and DCs were brilliant. Despite the insecurity, the uncertainty and the unknown element of Covid, they put themselves at risk to help the people in their community.”
Despite this, an increasing number of officers reported being spat on by suspects who claimed to have Covid-19.
Chief Inspector Godley thanked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for taking these issues so seriously.
“They (the CPS) were brilliant,” she added. “A number of suspects were charged and we were able to get through that stage.
“This behaviour still didn’t deter our police officers who carried on turning up to work as they should have done. But it is a horrible situation for an officer to be in when they’re trying to protect their family from this virus.
“I’m really proud of how we have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Our officers have been brilliant coming into work every day.”
She said a small number of officers have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Most of these, she said, occurred earlier in the crisis.
All those who tested positive went into self isolation which stopped the virus spreading among teams.
Chief Inspector Godley added: “We’ve had very few cases but some have had it. We’ve got a strict cleaning regime in place in the police station.
“We have not had to isolate whole teams as yet. We also have rules for when we must wear protective equipment (PPE) and when we don’t. When two police officers are in the car together they will wear masks. Arrested suspects are also given PPE when they arrive in custody. A lot of it has been about hygiene and carrying out deep cleans.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen police given more powers to enforce changing regulations, including breaking up large gatherings and enforcing the ‘Rule of Six’.
She said the public has generally kept to the rules but they do sometimes need reminding.
“At the start, we had lots of people travelling to Hastings, coming down to the beaches, going to Camber. Now we have the Rule of Six but I would say everyone is pretty good.
“They are following the rules but there might be a very small percentage of people who aren’t.
“Sometimes, people just need that reminder. We use the four E’s – engage, explain, encourage, enforce – when dealing with these rules. We encourage people to abide by them and most people listen.”
She said has been impressed with how businesses have adapted to the new way of working and could only remember one business in Bexhill – which she did not name – which ‘tried to bend the rules a bit’.
Officers have been enforcing rules together with the local councils and Trading Standards.
Police have also been working closely with businesses following an initial spike in the number of reports of commercial burglaries. With many people working from home during the pandemic, residential burglaries fell but a number of businesses reported being targeted soon after shutting suddenly for the lockdown, according to Chief Inspector Godley. However, she said crime levels are returning to normal levels seen at this time of year.
Despite the government encouraging people to tell police when they believe their neighbours are breaking Covid-19 restrictions, she said they are not seeing huge numbers of these incidents.
“When lockdown first started, we received some reports but recently we have seen an increase in anti-social behaviour as people have been more aware of their surroundings.”