Kent Police to avoid ‘alienating’ local communities as officers tasked with enforcing coronavirus rules

Thanet Town Beat Officers patrolling our towns Photo Kent Police Thanet

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Kent police chiefs have said the county force should not “alienate” local communities.

Officers across Kent have been told to “engage” with members of the public by explaining new Government social distancing laws before encouraging them to go home or disperse.

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, said “enforcement” of coronavirus emergency powers will only be used as a last resort following discussions with the local chief constable, Alan Pughsley.

Mr Scott said: “‘The chief constable and I will continue to have regular meetings, but he has been keen to stress the importance of not alienating our communities, and I agree that is very important.”

It comes days after Derbyshire Police was criticised for being “overzealous” after officers used a drone to film ramblers and dog walkers in the Peak District.

But, Kent Police assistant chief constable Peter Ayling defended the UK force and said the scrutiny faced by officers was comparable to “Goldilocks policing”.

Earlier this week,it was revealed that officers in Kent have yet to issue any fine to people flouting social distancing rules, aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. Officers have not yet deployed drones but have six at their disposal.

Kent’s police and crime commissioner told the Local Democracy Reporting service: “‘The important thing is how these new powers are exercised.

“I’ve been speaking with the chief constable about this, and his direction to his officers has been is that if they encounter anyone not following the guidance then they should engage with them, they should explain the situation to them, and encourage them to go home or disperse.

“The powers to enforce are only to be used as a last resort.”

Roadside checks continue to be carried out.

A Kent Police spokesman added: “We are patrolling locations across the county to ensure individuals and businesses are adhering to the Government’s instructions around social distancing.

“Those going against the instructions are being reminded of their personal responsibilities, with groups being dispersed.

“The latest direction from the Government means that those who refuse to disperse could face further action such as fines.

“Officers will be expected to use discretion when deciding how to resolve an incident, just like they do with other similar circumstances.”