The government should toughen the lockdown by giving officers the right to force entry into homes of suspected law breakers, a policing leader has said.
David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands police, England’s second biggest force, said: “For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.
“I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.”
As the third lockdown comes into force in England at midnight on Wednesday, the rising infection rate is also causing increasing absences from the ranks of officers needed to help enforce the lockdown.
The Guardian understands that ahead of the lockdown announcement, the government considered other tough measures including restricting how far people can travel for exercise and a night-time curfew from 10pm to early morning.
The curtailment of movement ideas considered could have seen people limited to traveling only several miles from their main residence or to their own county.
In discussions with government since the first lockdown, police have pointed out the coronavirus regulations do not allow them to gain entry to a place where they suspect laws may be being broken, such as where large parties are taking place.
Sources expect the new lockdown to be broadly similar to the first last March and to be policed in a similar way. The 43 local forces in England will make their own operational decisions and concentrate on the biggest breaches such as unlicensed music events and parties.
Police say most people are complying with the parts of the regulations they have been enforcing. Research for the government’s scientific advisers found that less than 20% of people in England fully self-isolate when asked to do so.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council said: “We are confident that the majority of people will respect the rules and do their part to keep our communities safe and to protect the NHS.
“Those who do not follow the regulations and measures put in place to limit the spread of the virus should expect to receive a fixed penalty notice”.
The new lockdown, caused by rising infection rates, is causing increasing absences among police ranks, currently understood in England to be on average 7%. In some forces it is higher, and as in the first lockdown, forces have drawn up plans as to what they would stop doing if absence levels continue to rise and become a crisis.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner said: “By complying, we are protecting one another, our loved ones and those emergency service and key workers who are on the front-line of the response this winter, putting their safety before others on all our behalfs.
“The police in West Yorkshire will continue to maintain their approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging the public, but using enforcement powers when and where it’s necessary for wider public protection purposes and I’ll be having further conversations with the chief constable and policing minister later [on Tuesday].”
The Metropolitan police, which covers Greater London, said the alleged organiser of a party in Kensington, which up to 200 people attended, could face a £10,000 fine. The Met said they were called to the party on 30 December and officers recovered weapons including knives and hammers.
This content was originally published here.