West Midlands Police redeploy specialist teams to prioritise enforcement of coronavirus restrictions
West Midlands Police are shuffling their policing teams around to ensure as many officers as possible are out keeping people safe in communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officers from specialist police teams including the force’s Football and Airport Units, and traffic cops, have been redeployed to provide reassurance and a visible presence at key locations in the region such as hospitals and supermarkets.
Encouraged by police chiefs to safely engage with people to reinforce the government’s ‘Stay at Home’ measures, the officers are on a mission to stifle the spread of the disease and save lives.
WMP are urging people to only head outdoors to buy essential food or medical supplies, for exercise or to help vulnerable people.
Additional officers from Operational Planning – normally busy preparing for major events like protests, festivals or music concerts – are also now helping plan the official ever-evolving response to coronavirus; as are some specialist firearm instructors on temporary leave from training duties.
Superintendent Beth Bridges from West Midlands Police’s Operations department, said:
“These are unprecedented times and we are constantly reviewing all our policing activity to make best use of every single one of our officers.
“With far fewer vehicles on our roads, we’re now tasking many of our traffic units to patrol key locations including shops and hospitals.
“And with less flights into and out of Birmingham we’ve also agreed with the airport to free up some PCs for patrols in Coventry and Solihull.
“The position has changed rapidly over the last couple of weeks and we’ve had to be flexible to ensure we’re helping the public as best we can.”
During the COVID-19 restrictions people are only allowed to leave home for limited purposes:
• Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible;
• One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of their household;
• Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
• Travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot work from home.
Police officers are currently on patrol liaising with anyone unclear about what’s being asked of them, and encouraging compliance with the government’s instructions.
While most members of the public are adhering to the changes, police do have powers to disperse groups, instruct people to go home, and issue fines to those who ignore advice and cause concern or engage in disruptive behaviour.
In a statement, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police added:
“Please exercise common sense. We won’t be able to dispatch officers for minor infringements of the rules.
“Clearly mass gatherings of people is not a minor infringement and we would want to know about that so we can take appropriate action.
“You can alert us to any serious compliance breaches by messaging us on Live Chat via our website.”
Police officers in Coventry had to break up an outdoor barbecue get-together of 20 people only a day after the new social distancing lockdown rules came into force.
On Saturday, Derbyshire Police were left in “absolute shock” to discover a “massive” karaoke party being attended by 25 people, complete with party food and music, all in a small residential space.
With the West Midlands being a UK hotspot for coronavirus, and Birmingham having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the UK outside London, the lockdown has seen many parts of the region largely deserted as people stay indoors and self-isolate.
WATCH: Birmingham city centre under coronavirus lockdown
For more information on coronavirus and the government’s official response, click here.