Frontline police officers should be “properly recognised” in the prioritisation list for Covid vaccines, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said.
Britain’s most senior police officer added her colleagues were “not immune to the virus” and has asked the Government to consider the case for inoculating frontline workers earlier than planned.
Her views echo with those of John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, who has said rank and file officers urgently needed the “protection they deserve”, and asked for officers to be prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.
Writing in the Times, Ms Dick said: “By necessity, frontline police officers and staff interact with many people every day and are sometimes inevitably in close contact, whether helping injured victims or detaining offenders.
“I have been asking the government to consider that the unique environments in which frontline colleagues work are properly recognised in the prioritisation process for vaccines.
“The case for frontline officers so they can continue to keep others, as well as themselves, safe is very strong. I am delighted to hear this is being actively discussed.”
The Metropolitan Police will be supplying 75 drivers to help their “overstretched” London Ambulance Service colleagues, Ms Dick said, writing the force was taking “unusual steps to assist our uniformed colleagues”.
She also praised the majority of Londoners for following Covid-19 legislation, but said her colleagues had seen others “flagrantly ignoring the rules” by holding house parties, meeting in basements to gamble or breaking into railway arches for unlicensed raves.
Ms Dick wrote: “We will still be engaging, explaining and encouraging but those who break the rules or refuse to comply where they should without good reason will find officers moving much more quickly to enforcement action.”
Chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation Brian Booth said the force is also facing a “distinct possibility” of needing to help the ambulance service and cannot afford to lose 10% of officers to sickness as in some other areas.
He told the PA news agency: “For us in West Yorkshire that’s 500 or 600 cops and we cannot afford to lose that many.
“What we are trying to say is let’s get the vaccine and let’s get ahead of the curve for once.
“Let’s not get into that critical situation and then realise we can’t cope because who’s going to backfill us? If we have to backfill the ambulances because they’re in crisis, who’s backfilling the police?
“We are the last stand, what’s coming behind us? Could the military do it? I highly doubt it.”
Cleveland Chief Constable Richard Lewis joined the calls for officers to be prioritised for the vaccine, once those most at risk have been jabbed.
He said: “The list of those that are worthy of early vaccination is long and I do not envy those that must decide on a prioritisation list; it must be a most difficult task.
“However, we can show our support for front line staff by vaccinating them as early as possible (amongst those that need prioritisation) so we can continue to serve the community safely.
“Let’s support those that support us.”