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Speech:
Chief Constable Winton Keenen on Coronavirus
20 Mar | 15:33

When we first heard of Coronavirus (Covid-19), I am sure many of us didn’t fully imagine the impact it would now be having on our daily lives.

In the face of the adversity we are now experiencing, our friends in the health service continue to go above and beyond – and for that they should have our admiration and gratitude.

At present, the North East has yet to see the levels of confirmed cases other parts of the country are experiencing. But none of us are immune to it and we have to be ready, all of us, to fight it on every front.

Therefore, now feels the right time for me to set-out our position from a local policing perspective.

While this remains very much a health-led incident, now more than ever, we all have an important role to play in helping protect the most vulnerable in our society.

I assure you Northumbria Police will play its part in ensuring we all come together to offer a co-ordinated, effective and where necessary compassionate response.

As well as working closely with our colleagues locally, across all sectors, we are also engaged with national policing to monitor and best understand the guidance and communications from Central Government.

As a consequence, our plans will continue to evolve as we learn more about the potential impact of Covid-19 on our local communities, our workforce and our partner agencies.

There has already been much speculation about the level of service policing will be able to deliver in the face of this pandemic.

As you would expect, we have well-established, effective and extensive plans for dealing with a range of complex incidents and situations. We continue to adapt them against what, in so many ways, is an unprecedented issue.

However, as I voiced at the start of this letter, the reality is no-one is immune from Covid-19 – emergency service workers such as the police included. Therefore, it is essential we actively consider the impact the virus could have on us as a force and subsequently the manner and nature of the service we are able to provide.

For example, along with other organisations, we have already implemented measures such as homeworking wherever possible, in non-frontline roles, in an effort to maintain resourcing levels across our supporting services. This will ultimately allow our frontline officers and staff to continue to do the job to the best of their abilities.

We are also looking at the way we conduct some of our community engagement events, as we must support the approach of preventing groups of people coming together in ways that could increase risks of infection. As such, we are looking at how else we can reach you and keep you best-informed.

The one constant in everything we do, will be our unwavering commitment to ensuring our communities remain as safe as possible. We will be there for you now, as we have been in the past and we will be in the future.

Our officers and staff will continue to respond to incidents and continue to be in the hearts of our communities, because, not only did we pledge that is what we would do, it is what we want to do – so that we continue to protect and serve in the way you would expect.

I am constantly reminded, especially at times like these, of the sacrifices officers, staff and volunteers make, so readily, on behalf of others and for that I will remain eternally grateful to them – indeed, I am sure many of you across our communities will feel the same way.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the families and friends of those across Northumbria Police and the other emergency services who are being asked to keep turning-out when others are being asked not to – especially as the worries they hold for their loved-ones are likely to be increased at times like these. It is in so many ways due to their on-going support that we are able to do what we do.

I make my further commitment to you that we will do our utmost to keep you updated as we move through these challenging times.

All I would ask in return is that you continue to work with us and our partners to help mitigate the impact Covid-19 has on the communities we are so proud and privileged to serve.

A very simple way you can help is in how you contact us. If your call isn’t urgent, then rather than phoning 101, where you can, please contact us online through our website. This will really help when our phone lines are busy and mean we continue to respond to those who need us most. Of course, in an emergency always call 999.

I am also acutely aware that while times like these bring out the best in our communities, unfortunately there will always be people who look to exploit the vulnerability of others for their own selfish gains. We will continue to do our best to protect those who may be targeted in this way, but we can all play a part in doing so – please take care of one another, speak to your family, friends and neighbours and offer support where it is needed.

Here in the North East we are renowned for our community spirit and we need that now more than ever – we really are so much stronger together.

Winton Keenen
Chief Constable

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