One year on: Engaging with our communities during Covid
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A trip to the pub or a haircut were suddenly out of the question, and many of us haven’t seen many of our friends or family for more than a year.
Officers out on patrol were encouraged to engage, explain, and encourage to public to stick to the rules. Fines were only issued for clear and blatant breaches.
But how did the public react to the restrictions, and what was the experience like for an officer having to police the guidelines?
The announcement of the first lockdown in March 2020 meant additional responsibilities for PC Cheung and his colleagues.
He said: “Before Covid, we’d cover neighbourhood policing, looking at problem hotspots. Our daily duties would include dealing with nuisance neighbours and any areas where there had been issues with large groups of young people. We’d also police any big events in Southend, Leigh or Shoebury. We’d reassure the public and do general patrols.
“When lockdown started, a lot of us had to deal with lockdown issues; policing public spaces and parks where people were out and about and would generally congregate, and dealing with any Covid breaches that were evident.
“We’d be down at seafront on the stretch running from Shoebury all the way to Chalkwell and into Old Leigh. We started to police there more heavily as people were congregating where it’s open on the seafront. We were also in the parks as well – skateparks, Chalkwell Park, and areas of Old Leigh."
How receptive were the public to sticking to the rules?
“As the rules relaxed there were less calls made but many of the calls were about businesses rather members of the public.”
“We were having to warn people for what is ordinarily quite normal behaviour – meeting up and doing things together. It’s difficult to take away that liberty from someone where they can’t meet their friends or do anything with people who aren’t in their own household.”
Thinking ahead to a time when lockdown restrictions are eased, PC Cheung, who is married with two children, said:
“I’m looking forward to meeting up with my family, and for the children to see family again. Just to have a barbecue and a drink – things you used to take for granted.”