Neighbourhood policing central to recovery from COVID-19 impacts

The lockdown has reinforced the contribution of neighbourhood policing to community resilience, and will be vital to community cohesion in the recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

This is the view held by Resilience First, whose executive director, Robert Hall, says that the virus will continue to test communities over the coming months, and that neighbourhood policing provides the most effective way of enforcing "new social rules".

“The COVID19 pandemic has already marked a major change to the routine and lifestyles of individuals, organisations and communities. Over the next few months the virus is likely to test our societal bonds, perhaps as never before, and usher in a new normal with social distancing, economic recession and shielding of the older generation all providing significant challenges to our social cohesion.

“Communities will be an important element in any recovery. Even as people self-isolate and adopt social distancing measures, communities will prove to be the bedrock of our societal cohesion. Already we have seen a new level of neighbourliness and a new community appreciation of public servants and other essential workers in the weekly Clap for Our Carers.

“The role of neighbourhood police officers is central to this. They provide the route to enforcement of the new social rules and they can do this most effectively if they have both a deep understanding of their local community and the consent of that community to apply the rules of the new normal.”

As the number of new COVID-19 cases begins to slow, and the first human trials for a vaccine begin this week, debate has begun to heat up around plans for easing the lockdown.

Speaking during one of Resilience First's webinar events this week, Sir Craig Mackey QPM, former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said success in this endeavour relies on neighbourhood police having established relationships within communities.

“If you said 8-10 weeks ago that you had to design a system where people are crowdsourcing masks or building stuff on 3D printers for the NHS or coming together with their neighbours that they have never met, you would have said that will never happen," Sir Mackey said.

“But through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a very, very different public debate in a short space of time around people’s understanding of what public service is and what it means to be a public servant and I would include policing and many, many other areas in that.

“We police with the support of the community. We don’t have a model in this country, nor do we want one, where policing is just an enforcement mechanism. Policing has tried to be very careful where it manages the boundaries with the new lockdown rules. 99% of people want to comply with them.

“The British policing model is incredibly conscious of the importance of the relationship and the consent it has with communities to allow it to operate. If the first time you talk to a community is when something goes wrong, that is going to be a very hard debate.”

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