Police not monitoring supermarket purchases, force insists

By Emma Bowden, PA

A police force has insisted it is not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets following comments by an “over exuberant officer” on non-essential shopping aisles.

It comes just a day after a chief constable of another force was criticised for suggesting officers could search shopping trolleys if people continued to flout lockdown rules.

Cambridgeshire Police officers visited Tesco in Barhill on Friday morning as part of their patrols.

A tweet by the force’s Cambridge team said they were pleased to see “everyone abiding by social distancing measures” and that the “non-essential aisles” were empty.

“Officers visited Tesco Barhill this morning as part of their patrols around supermarkets and green spaces this weekend,” it said.

“Good to see everyone was abiding by social distancing measures and the non essential aisles were empty.”

But in a follow-up on Twitter the force said the initial post, which has since been deleted, was made by an “over exuberant officer” and that its position was in line with national guidance.

“For clarification, the force position, in line with national guidance, is that we are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets,” it said.

“This message was sent with good intentions by an over exuberant officer who has been spoken to since this tweet was published.”

The force added that while it has had to issue a small number of fines to those ignoring lockdown guidance, none of these were in relation to shopping or supermarket visits.

Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, Nick Adderley (Jacob King/PA)

Downing Street said shops that are allowed to remain open during the lockdown are free to sell whatever items they have in stock.

Asked about the idea of police patrolling supermarket aisles to see what people are buying, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock.

“Obviously provided it’s legal to do so.”

On Thursday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said police checking supermarket trolleys was “not appropriate” after a chief constable threatened to implement the measure to police the coronavirus regulations.

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley had said his force would consider roadblocks, marshalling supermarkets and searching through shopping baskets and trolleys if people continued to flout the rules.

He has since backtracked on his comments, describing his language as “clumsy”.

A tweet by the Neighbourhood Policing Team for Northampton on Saturday said: “Nothing what the chief said yesterday was outside of his remit.”

In another incident, South Yorkshire Police apologised for a “well-intentioned but ill-informed” exchange in which an officer appeared to tell a family they were not allowed to play in their own front garden.

In a video posted on Twitter, a police officer tells a resident in Eastwood, Rotherham, to stay inside because “the virus does not stop on your front garden”.

The force later tweeted: “This encounter was well-intentioned but ill-informed and we’d like to apologise for the way it was handled.

“We’ve spoken to the officer concerned and made our approach absolutely clear. Again, we apologise for any inconvenience caused & will continue our work to support the NHS.”