The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has called for the Government to “explore all opportunities” to set up a test and release scheme allowing isolating police officers to return to duty.
Sir David Thompson said the “critical” move was needed swiftly – with any exemptions to the test and trace system granted applied in a responsible way “so as not to compromise the safety of colleagues or the public”.
In a statement, Sir David, who was knighted for services to policing in the latest New Year Honours, said the country had entered a new phase in the pandemic as many of the remaining Covid restrictions were removed.
Sir David said: “Since the start of the pandemic, policing has been at the forefront of the response to managing the virus and is acutely aware of the risks and issues related to it.
“However, as infection rates remain high it is becoming increasingly challenging within West Midlands Police, like many other forces, to ensure that resilience is not compromised with high self-isolation through track and trace or other notifications.
“Against this backdrop, it is critical that we explore all opportunities with Government to introduce a test and release scheme swiftly for policing which makes it easier for us to free up resources and meet demand at what is already an exceptionally busy time of the year with very high volumes of calls.
“Any exemptions granted would be applied carefully in a responsible way so as not to compromise the safety of colleagues or the public.”
The senior officer added: “I understand how challenging this is, but we need to do everything we can to ensure we can deliver sustainable policing services and keep the public safe.”
Sir David’s comments come a day after it was suggested police response times are being affected, as some forces experience higher levels of absence.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said in some forces functions such as control room operations are seeing higher staff absences than the national police absence rate.
The NPCC comments came after the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Steve Turner, warned that call response times will rise due to the so-called “pingdemic”.
Mr Turner said the Cleveland force has had to cancel rest days and annual leave for some officers, as well as bringing in others from different shifts, to fill gaps caused by staff having to self-isolate following close contact with someone with Covid-19.
Mr Turner, who also called on the Government to review the rules for emergency workers who are pinged by the NHS Covid app, told the BBC: “We have got to provide a service.
“We suddenly find ourselves cancelling rest days and cancelling leave and bringing officers in from other shifts to cover where we have got the gaps.”