This past week has been a national opportunity to reflect on the anniversary of the first ‘lockdown’ and the way our lives have been changed due to covid-19. New phrases have entered the national consciousness; ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolate’ and ‘anti-vax’ and have largely replaced ‘hug’, ‘meet’ and ‘socialise’.
During this timely national reflection, many moving and heartfelt tributes have been paid to those who have lost their lives and thanks given to others working in the health service and care home settings who have dedicated their lives in service to the health of others. It took one artwork by Banksy to capture what a thousand words could not.
Those working in all health settings have proven to be the true heroes of our time by donning not a superhero mask to hide identity (like those discarded in the bin in the above picture), but a mask designed to protect against covid-19.
As the proud Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, I’m delighted to add my thanks to those offered by others to our health care workers but I also want to draw attention to the extraordinary work of our staff within the police service who have been out working in our communities at a time when the country were repeatedly (and appropriately) told to remain safe, indoors and away from others. Our staff were compelled to do the exact opposite not by order but by our civic duty which is a much stronger compulsion.
On top of the protective equipment they already wore was added another layer in the form of PPE to protect themselves and those they met. In the most difficult of times, they simply went about their work protecting the public and doing their duty. That duty was done in the same way as it was always done; with fortitude and dignified silence and significantly, without the protection of a vaccine.
I know that in return for that service, our officers and staff require no more thanks than the acknowledgement from our communities that we were there for them when they needed us most but it is my duty to draw attention to their extraordinary work and to thank them for it. For those with even a passing interest in the Marvel Movies, you will know that superheroes seldom work alone and it has been our privilege to have made a contribution to the national effort over this last year alongside our health care workers, local journalists, supermarket staff, emergency service colleagues, council staff, charities and the millions of other key workers.
We can perhaps look forward rather than back now to a better year. The light at the end of the long tunnel has included the advent of new vaccines at breakneck speed which have found their echo in the arrival of spring where good weather and an easing of restrictions has meant that we might finally be emerging from a difficult year.
We have had huge support from local people as we navigated the new Coronavirus laws over the last year, and ask for that continued support as the nation tentatively moves away from the stay at home message. Our frontline still has a duty to engage, explain, encourage, but also where necessary enforce the rules that are still in place. We must work together to get further into the light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you to all the staff, officers and volunteers at Cleveland Police who with the rest of the country can begin to utter again words such as ‘hug’, ‘meet’ and ‘socialise’. The work of our policing colleagues across the country will help to make that a reality.
Richard Lewis, Chief Constable