THE Chief Constable of South Wales Police has written an open letter to all of the Force’s officers, staff and volunteers, in recognition of their response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Jukes praised the workforce for the way they have responded to the challenges of the past five months, not only in a professional capacity but also in caring for family and friends, as well as looking after their own health and wellbeing.
In an open letter to police officers, staff and volunteers he said:
“We have seen incredible creativity, dynamism and flexibility from colleagues across the force, at all levels, to ensure that South Wales Police has been able to continue to serve our communities. As civil restrictions changed not only the way we worked but also the demand for service, with some of the busiest days on record during the last period, we have also seen tremendous resilience and dedication to keeping South Wales safe. Within all of that, there have been remarkable acts of heroism and bravery, on and off-duty, with lives saved every single day. For all of that, I am so very grateful.
“I am grateful too for the compassion and support that you have shown one another during what has been an incredibly difficult period for many. As a police family, we have experienced tragedy, in the loss of PC Jeremy Veck. I have been, as I always am, so proud of the way you have come together to support those closest to him, in their time of need.
“Operation Talla has also been a time of personal sacrifice. Working from home, caring for children, and loved ones, especially those who may have been shielding, has made a difficult day job even tougher.”
On some occasions over the past five months, South Wales Police has seen unprecedented demand, with more calls from the public than more traditional busy times such as Halloween and New Year’s Eve. During August the force saw its busiest weekend for demand since New Year’s Eve 2015, while over the VE Day Bank Holiday in May, 3,174 calls were taken in a 24-hour period. An average New Year’s Eve would see around 1,600 calls.
Officers have also continued to carry out proactive work under the banner of Operation Sceptre to tackle knife crime and serious violence, while examples of bravery saw an off-duty PCSO rescue a girl from the sea at Porthcawl, officers coming to the aid of a bus driver who had suffered a heart attack in Barry and two police officers wading into the sea at Aberavon during the early hours to save a vulnerable man.
In his letter, Chief Constable Jukes continued:
“These achievements may not make the headlines they deserve, and they may pass by the armchair critics on social media. But I can assure you, they leave an enormous and hugely appreciated legacy in our communities. Every week I receive letters from grateful families, often after the very worst of experiences, who have benefited from your care, or from the support of colleagues whose work enables that care to be provided.”
As well as enforcing the new Coronavirus legislation, the force has policed numerous protests across South Wales towns and cities and only two weekends ago was called to mass gathering of over 3,000 people at an unlicensed music event in Banwen, where new tougher fines brought in by Welsh Government were used for the first time.
Mr Jukes added:
“On the ground, our work has had its clear challenges. For an initial period many of you had to promote and enforce regulations that restricted everyday life in ways that are exceptional outside wartime – too much use of new powers would lose public support, too little would mean we had failed to make our contribution.
“The test is always getting it ‘just right’ and the acid test of that is with our communities. The news there is incredibly positive, despite some headlines early on that would suggest otherwise. In a period when we received over 15,000 calls concerning COVID, an average of only 7 of the 1,100 each week were complaints about our response. Recent surveys showed 91% of the public were satisfied with the way police dealt with coronavirus restrictions. Those are approval ratings that many businesses would envy, and in such a potentially tense period, a real endorsement of the compassion and humanity shown. The ‘fair but when required, firm’ approach that you’ve traditionally shown at major sports events and in everyday policing was again a great credit to Heddlu De Cymru.
“As we now reach a new normal and focus becomes one of recovery and what the remainder of 2020 holds for us, I wanted to write to thank all of you, for your contribution to keeping our communities safe during one of the most testing times in the force’s history. I would like to thank your families and loved ones too, for the sacrifices they have made to support you.”