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Concerns over local police using protection against virus

By David G Scott

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AFTER a Police Scotland announcement that officers are to be issued protective gloves and masks as a coronavirus safety measure, two Wick men have questioned whether guidelines are being followed.

On Thursday, Police Scotland said in a statement that "police officers and staff across Scotland will be given surgical face masks to wear" as they respond to incidents or deal with the public where it is not possible to adhere to social distancing measures.

"Police Scotland has secured initial stocks of type 2 fluid resistant surgical masks and is distributing them to its workforce," the statement said.

Police Scotland says the team coordinating its response to coronavirus has been "working round the clock" to secure, order, receive and distribute the personal protective equipment (PPE).

Police Scotland is rolling out stocks of PPE to its force this week.
Police Scotland is rolling out stocks of PPE to its force this week.

On Friday, it stated that more than 630 officers had already received the kit, including FFP3 masks, gloves, boot covers, coveralls and goggles.

However, a Wick man who encountered police on Saturday evening said that the officers made "no effort to socially distance" and no protective equipment was worn.

Keith Banks claims he let the two officers into the communal block where he lives in Dunnett Avenue as they wished to speak with one of his neighbours.

"They walked right past me with no respect for social distancing and wearing no protective masks or gloves," he said.

Keith Banks claimed that police in Wick made no attempt to follow social distancing policies.
Keith Banks claimed that police in Wick made no attempt to follow social distancing policies.

Mr Banks believes there has been an "unwillingness or inability to be transparent and accountable" over operational policing policy since lockdown.

"Interpretation of the Covid-19 legislation by police officers in Caithness has been inconsistent," he said.

"The police must be seen to be setting an example and providing reassurance to the public at this time of national crisis. This has not been the case in Caithness, where flagrant behaviour by officers has placed them and the public at risk of avoidable transmission.

"Police Scotland's mantra is 'Keeping People Safe' and the public have a right to expect police to behave responsibly."

However, Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said last Thursday that the force is "doing everything to protect the public and limit the spread of the virus and to protect our own people as they carry out their duties".

He said: “We’ve already rolled out face-fitted respirators, an enhanced level of protection, to frontline officers and that work continues."

A further police statement said that, though the roll-out of kit remains ongoing, officers are not required to wear PPE "on routine patrol".

Mr Banks, however, questioned what constituted a "routine patrol in the context of a pandemic".

"From a public safety perspective, that reckless strategy implies that they have not acknowledged the gravity of the situation, and exposes the police and the public to avoidable risk of transmission," he claimed.

Another Wick man, Hugh McLeod, witnessed an incident near his auto parts shop in Breadalbane Terrace soon after the lockdown was announced.

Mr McLeod claims he saw a car being stopped outside his shop by police and its occupants ordered out for questioning.

"It seemed like a stop and search," he said. "They had them all out the black Fiesta and handcuffed them.

"It just seemed the totally wrong procedure – with the pandemic ongoing – to take them all out the car at once."

Mr McLeod thought "it seemed more logical" to ask them out one at a time and advise them to keep a safe distance. "They weren't wearing masks and I don't think they had gloves on either."

Police Scotland say that its officers and staff will "be able to choose" to use the type 2 masks in certain low-risk situations where they are "unable to maintain a two-metre distance" from their colleagues or members of the public.

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