Merseyside Police have clarified their PPE policy after concerns were raised about videos circulating on social media showing officers not using masks or protective equipment when dealing with the public.
Masks are now mandatory in most indoor public settings and people are advised to wear masks in situations where social distancing is not possible, to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Some have questioned whether this is always the case when it comes to policing, with videos appearing to show officers without masks or PPE when coming into close contact with people.
The ECHO contacted Merseyside Police about their PPE policy for officers and members of Merseyside Police interacting with the public, and a statement has now been issued clarifying guidelines that officers should wear masks where possible when interacting with the public.
In the statement Assistant Chief Constable Rob Carden said: “Our officers care deeply about protecting the public of Merseyside and keeping them safe – that is why many put themselves in harm’s way every day.
“It is clear this commitment should extend to the wearing of the correct PPE when officers are able to anticipate having close contact with people.
“We have kept our officers and staff supplied with adequate PPE and given clear and regular instructions throughout the lockdown period about the latest and developing advice from Government, Public Health England and National Police Chief’s Council around the wearing of PPE and face coverings, its correct use and disposal.
“Officers have been reminded that it is imperative they wear disposable gloves, a fluid repellent surgical face mask and demonstrate good hand hygiene when close physical contact with the public is expected – whether making an arrest, comforting victims of crime, detaining someone or conducting a stop search.
“While I am pleased to say the vast majority have complied with these instructions, there have been reports of incidents where some have not.
"The job of a police officer is by its nature unpredictable and we recognise that in dynamic situations, where the threat of injury or worse to the public is very real, the use of PPE may not be possible when time is of the essence.
“But wherever it is possible, we are telling our officers to make sure they are wearing the correct PPE so that together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We know that our communities are nervous about the spread of COVID-19 and our officers have done a fantastic job of reminding the public of their responsibility to follow Government guidance.
“Our approach has been to engage with the public. explaining why they should follow advice, encouraging people to socially distance and – as a last resort – enforcing legislation.
"Officers have patrolled our beaches, parks and open spaces to ensure people are social distancing and will do so until this pandemic is over.
“There is a responsibility on us as a police force to not just encourage others, but to do our bit too, and we will continue to remind staff of the importance of wearing PPE when it is appropriate.”
In June, infectious disease specialist Ghaith Aljayyoussi, who works at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, highlighted the issue after being stopped and searched by the police near to Lime Street station.
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In July officers were filmed not using PPE while in close proximity to a man they had handcuffed after stopping him when he was helping his cousin reverse a car in Anfield.
And last week a video was circulated on social media of an elderly man on crutches who had been pepper sprayed and apprehended on Hartington Road in Toxteth after being stopped by the police.
At the time, Picton councillor Calvin Smeda expressed his concern at the lack of PPE use in an area that was experiencing an increase in infections.
He said: "There is also the ongoing concern of the lack of PPE use by the officers in the video.
"They should lead by example and use the correct protective equipment when incidents occur."