NYP Essential Journeys #17: Lions led by Idiots
by TIM HICKS
The NYE has been supporting the efforts of the NHS and North Yorkshire Police to contain the coronavirus pandemic. It has done this by running articles with information on the lockdown measures and articles which expose breaches of the lockdown rules by public figures. The intention of these articles is to disseminate information and to deter breaches of the lockdown rules.
In this statement of policy, Chief Constable Lisa Winward remarks on the lockdown rules:
“Anyone who thinks this does not apply to them is putting lives at risk. North Yorkshire Police will use all powers we have to stop that, to keep us all safe and to ultimately save lives”. This is highly commendable. Chief Constable Winward acting in her capacity as a public figure and Chief Constable has promulgated official advice and her personal view, that anyone breaching the lockdown rules is endangering life and should be severely dealt with, using the full weight of the law.”
A return to Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain.
Some of these articles concerned unnecessary journeys undertaken by Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Cain and Chief Constable Lisa Winward.
According to information she put out on social media, Chief Constable Winward indulged in a wholly unnecessary visit to Skipton Police Station. This visit – bizarrely for a time of crisis – took up the time of Police Sergeants Earnshaw and Stubbs “looking after” her, which distracted two Police Sergeants from policing duties.
To be fair, Chief Constable Winward has not revealed why she visited Skipton. However, in a crisis of this magnitude and projected duration, I would expect the Chief Constable to be available at Force Headquarters to provide command and control. Not swanning around the county on jollies, to obtain personal PR opportunities with silly tweets about two sergeants “looking after her”.
The question has to be asked: what was it that was so important about the Chief Constable’s visit that it removed two Police Sergeants from police operations to save life during the greatest crisis this country has faced since the Second World War? Can’t she look after herself on a visit to one of her own police stations?
Likewise, Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain issued a tweet describing how he defied the police advice and common sense by visiting Scarborough Police Station to attend a retirement celebration for a long serving member of staff. A non essential journey. which was then -incredibly- retweeted by “North Yorkshire Police #StayHomeSaveLives”.
It is clear from the photograph that accompanied the tweet that DCC Cain did not maintain the two-metre social distancing rules – thereby endangering the health and safety of police staff at Scarborough Police Station.
In another tweet, DCC Cain confirmed he had undertaken an unnecessary visit to Harrogate Fire Station.
DCC Cain also issued a tweet criticising a couple that were fined for breaking the lockdown rules in which he states:
“Two idiots have been fined for breaking lockdown rules by driving to Scarborough to view a second hand car.”
This appears to be essentially the same behaviour exhibited by DCC Cain and Chief Constable Winward. Leading to a very well deserved appearance in Private Eye for DCC Cain:
At a time of crisis, I would expect both Chief Officers to be at force headquarters or self-isolated at home.
I am not aware of any major incident or emergency at Skipton, Scarborough or Harrogate that is so grave it would require the operational presence of the Chief Constable or the Deputy Chief Constable to take command of it. Or any other reason that would require “absolutely necessary” travel to these locations. So the conclusion is inescapable that these journeys were not “absolutely necessary”.
Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain are important, highly visible, public figures. They represent North Yorkshire Police and the public face of the fight against Coronavirus in North Yorkshire. Their conduct in blatantly and publicly contravening the lockdown rules, diverting police resources away from operational duties, indulging in non-essential travel and not respecting social distancing is in my view a catastrophic failure of leadership.
Along with everyone else, I have feelings of admiration for the way North Yorkshire Police officers have carried on serving the public during the coronavirus pandemic at the risk of their own lives. Their conduct has undermined the efforts of operational police officers who are doing their best to protect the public. Our police officers deserve better than this and the phrase “Lions led by Donkeys”* comes to mind.
Lisa & Phil[*Editor: “Lions led by Idiots” is probably a better description.]
In the articles, I argued that by visiting police stations across North Yorkshire, Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain were endangering the lives of their officers.
This was on the basis that Coronavirus is so contagious that if one officer in a North Yorkshire Police Station contracted COVID-19, then passed it on to a Chief Officer who was conducting a pointless, unnecessary and fatuous visit, he or she would return to Force Headquarters and risk cross-infecingt everyone there and officers in other stations he or she visited within a few days. The infection would then spread across multiple North Yorkshire Police Stations, severely degrading its ability to provide policing in North Yorkshire.
No. It has happened recently in Northern Ireland.
I am very sorry to relate that here has been an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Police Stations at Antrim and Newtonabbey have been closed. Eight officers have tested positive for COVID-19 and another fifty one have been removed from duty and are self isolating at home. About sixty police officers have been removed from front line policing overnight.
BBC Report here
The police are more vulnerable to infection because their duties require them to ignore social distancing to make arrests. Here I indulge in some speculation, but it would appear to me that as a result of his police duties, an officer from one of these stations became infected. That officer then infected other officers in one station and then he, or she, or another officer from that station then visited the other station and infected the officers there.
Fortunately, the outbreak was spotted and contained to two police stations.
Had there been an officer who was visiting multiple stations across the force area as Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain were, it could have infected every police station in Northern Ireland.
We can only hope that the infected officers will recover and none of their colleagues or their families will contract COVID-19.
This development in Northern Ireland has entirely vindicated the line taken by the NYE towards Chief Constable Winward and DCC Cain’s travelling.
Just because you are a chief Police Officer does not mean you can’t contract COVID-19 and spread it to those you come into contact with. By indulging in non-essential travel to police stations across the force area and ignoring social distancing when they were there, both officers potentially put every member of the force and their families at risk.
The NYE can only hope that by using its policy of “name and shame” and publicly criticising on non-essential travel by both officers, we have deterred them from any more fatuous visits to police stations, with the associated risk of cross infection.
A very clear case of journalists holding public figures to account, in the public interest.
The Lockdown Rules
The NYE will continue to do everything it can to support the efforts of the vast majority of NYP officers, who are doing their best to police a pandemic at some considerable risk to themselves, by disseminating information on the Coronavirus.
- Government coronavirus guidance on Gov.uk
- Tell us about a possible breach of coronavirus (Covid-19) measures
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