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Police Scotland Federation sets up panel of medical experts on safety

The Federation have set up a panel of scientists and medical experts to give safeguarding advice for officers.

The SPF-Covid-19 Panel will identify changes to working practices which should be considered by Police Scotland.

David Hamilton, Chair of the Scottish Police Federation, said it had been put together to “fill the gap” by informing policing with specialist medical advice.

On the panel is Professor Sir Harry Burns, Professor George Crooks and Professor Hugh Pennington. The Police Federation members are Calum Steele and David Kennedy and the legal member is Professor Peter Watson of PBW Law.

Mr Hamilton said the panel was “absolutely irrefutable in terms of their knowledge and expertise”.

They will continually review the situation and give counsel to Police Scotland.

The panel’s immediate considerations are the suitability of generic public health guidance for the dynamic activity of policing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in various operational settings, mitigation of risks for police officers and the public and the cleaning and decontamination of the work place and specialist equipment.

Mr Hamilton said the police were the middle ground between public and health and had to work in that “grey zone” and needed guidance about what was appropriate for policing by people who understood the policing challenges.

He said the advice from the government and the NHS does not deal specifically with the area of policing and government advice had been unclear and even contradictory at times.

“The simple reality is you cannot as a police officer do all the measures which government would like you to do. It just can’t happen,” he said.

The panel met via video for the first time on Monday (6 April).

During the conference they discussed threats to officers – including the nature of police work where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed.

The importance of cleaning workplaces and vehicles is also being examined as well as the threat to officers’ families should infection be carried back to the family home.

The panel will also consider police working in custody suites in close quarters as well as examples of officers having to perform first aid – including CPR – without any protection from Covid-19.

The SPF-Covid-19 Panel will also examine the mechanisms by which it can be determined if any police officer has contracted the virus and how many have recovered from it. At present there is no data available on this “crucial matter”, the Federation said.

Calum Steele, the Federation’s General Secretary, said:  "The generic health protection advice promoted by government simply does not take account of the realities of police work.

"We need sector specific advice which recognises and reflects the often unpredictable and up close and personal nature of policing, and this panel will help us secure that.

"We cannot continue with a mindset that says if a police officer doesn't have symptoms then he or she doesn't have the virus. This is wrong."

Mr Steele added: "Every police officer is committed to upholding the law and helping the vulnerable but we cannot do that if our own officers are allowed to succumb to the deadly virus."

The SPF said that they are “working in coordination with others such as Police Scotland, Scottish Police Authority, the Inspectorate as well as the government” and “if the SPF are to raise matters in the public domain then they will let these bodies know in advance of this”.

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