CHIEF Constable Jo Shiner answers questions on policing during coronavirus pandemic...

What is morale like among front-line officers with everything that is going on and the added responsibilities?

Sometimes I think it’s easy for the public to see the uniform and not the person behind it and why that’s so important for me to be as front-line as I try to be. 

It’s really important for us all to remind ourselves that those officers and PCSOs who are going out, they all have families they go back to. They may well have vulnerable people in those families that they’re going back to. 

We know that during Covid, quite a few of our officers in particular, who have very little control about what they are sent to, may have to have close contact with people who have Covid.

We have had quite a few who have moved away from their family, moved away from anybody who is vulnerable, in order that they can continue coming to work to protect the public. 

It has been a big ask, it has been challenging, there’s no doubt about that and we see it in all parts of the community. 

What we have tried hard to do as a force is really look after them and make sure they know how much they’re appreciated.

We have certainly seen an increase in terms of the appreciation that is sent in from members of the public, whether that is letters, or people leaving chocolates. Actually, that is really appreciated by our frontline because they’re the people they want to protect. 


Have you had many cases of coronavirus in officers? 
We wouldn’t share the exact number of Covid levels, but what I will say is that right from the very start, we have kept a close eye on those people who are either sick or self-isolating.

We have seen significantly lower levels of absence and sickness than we would normally see and I think that is because most people have really stepped up. 

They want to take their part in protecting communities. 

At the most, we’ve had about five per cent of the total workforce, roughly, who have either been sick or self isolating. 

When you look at the size of the workforce, actually that’s really, really, low. 

We have had phenomenal support from our IT for example and they have been able to help people so that they can then work remotely. I’m really proud of how everyone has responded to it. 


Have you seen an increase in breaches in this lockdown?

If you think back to the first lockdown, one of the greatest challenges we had, particularly when the travel restrictions were changed, we saw a huge number of people coming into Sussex from elsewhere in the country.

I think [over the] bank holiday weekend just after the restrictions were lifted, all the tickets we gave out were to people who lived outside of Sussex and had driven in. 

The challenges have changed, I think it’s almost like comparing apples with pears. As the restrictions have changed, people’s behaviour has adapted to it.

On the whole, the vast majority of the public have, particularly because of some of the pressures they have been under, behaved really responsibly and made the right decisions.

While they might sometimes be frustrated by what our officers have asked them to do, they have understood what has been asked of them and they have been happy to do it.