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Weekes: my priority is safety

The senior police officer who headed the service's response to the Covid-19 pandemic said that his number one priority was public safety.

But Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes added that he and officers under his command had no plans to be “heavy-handed” with the extra responsibilities they had been given during the pandemic.

He said: “We understand why the state of emergency has been declared — it is not for the police to exercise powers that they wouldn't already have, it's not for us to make people's lives difficult.

“It's all about public safety — that's what these powers have been given to us for.

“It is not to abuse them, it's not to create a police state — it's about public health and it's about getting compliance to public health.”

Mr Weekes said that his role involved the reorganisation of policing efforts to deal with the problems caused by the pandemic.

He explained that this required him to plan patrols over the shelter in place regulations and establish rules to keep officers protected from potential danger.

Mr Weekes said that the approach altered as the Government altered its regulations, the goal of public protection remained.

He added: “The whole point of our policing strategy is to get compliance for public health safety — it is not about criminalising what would otherwise be normal behaviour.

“If someone is out riding a bike at two in the morning and they run from police they're probably going to end up in court, but we're not trying to criminalise people who are just going about their normal business and either didn't understand that they weren't supposed to be out or they thought they were still within the time limit.”

Me Weekes said that he tried to work in the field with other officers despite being classed as high risk from Covid-19.

He explained: “I'm in the older population — I'm probably one of the oldest guys in the police service — and I've got a couple of health issues myself, so I'm in the high risk area.

“But I have to demonstrate what I want my people to do and if I want my subordinates to do certain things then I have to model the behaviour that I'm expecting to see form them.

“So I've got to come to work, I've got to practice social distancing, I've got to wear a mask where it's appropriate and I've got to come to work and not be scared.” Mr Weekes added that he visited officers on the streets as often as he could.

He said: “I've been on the ground, talked to the guys on the checkpoints and I've come in on a Saturday night and talked to the guys who are on patrol, just to check in and make sure that they don't have any concerns.

“People seem to be pleased to see senior management come out to check on their concerns.

“If we as senior management don't want them to be scared to be out there, then we have to show them that we're not scared to be out there too.”

Getting compliance to public health: Martin Weekes, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, headed the service's response to the Covid-19 pandemic said that his number one priority was public safety (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 20, 2020 at 1:28 pm (Updated May 20, 2020 at 1:28 pm)

Weekes: my priority is safety

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