This evening we will see what, if any, changes are made to the lockdown regulations and what this will mean for the next few weeks.

Speculation over the last week or so has been somewhat unhelpful – I hope it hasn’t given too much hope of substantial change if there isn’t to be any and that the mixed messages haven’t impacted upon behaviour this weekend.

There are a few key considerations that must be considered with any changes to the guidance – messaging must be consistent across the board, it has to be well communicated and properly advertised. They need to be sure what the consequences are for breaches, what the approach should be and who will enforce them, so we do not have a repeat of some of the few early lockdown stories.

My regular briefings from the Chief Constable will continue and we will discuss the changes tomorrow. But here’s an update on some of the key issues so far.

In his weekly update to the media, Kent Police’s Chief Constable Alan Pughsley revealed on Thursday that there were 104 incidents of people coughing or spitting at police officers between 1 March and 4 May. This represented a 160% increase compared with the same nine-week period last year.

That anyone would choose to cough or spit at a police officer is disgusting at any time, but to do so when we are all living through a deadly pandemic is absolutely shameful. I’ve said it before and I say it again: anyone found guilty of such an assault should, in my view, receive a custodial sentence.

I have been very impressed with what I have heard about how Kent Police has coped through this unprecedented challenge. The fact that only 113 fines have needed to be issued as a last resort to people for breaching the lockdown is testament to the fact that the people of Kent are largely following the rules. It also shows how effectively and professionally Kent Police has engaged with the small minority who have not.

This period has also shown the value of looking after the workforce’s health and wellbeing. The Chief and I both recognise that Kent Police’s people are its number one asset and it is thanks to the support that the force provides for them that Kent Police has seen very few officers and staff – just 220 out of a workforce of more than 6,000 – having to take time off at the moment.

To those who are ill, on behalf of the people of Kent, I wish you a safe and speedy recovery; and my thoughts are with those who sadly have passed.

And to everyone within Kent Police who has dealt so admirably throughout this crisis I add, again; Thank you.

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