Police contingency plan: Volunteer force ready to deploy

An officer on high-visibility patrol at the airport
An officer on high-visibility patrol at the airport Wednesday. Police are wearing protective gloves to help protect them from potential exposure to the virus.

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A volunteer force of 40 special constables is on standby if police numbers are reduced during the coronavirus crisis.

Private security firms or officers from other British Overseas Territories or the UK itself could also be called on in the worst-case scenario, Commissioner Derek Byrne said.

For now, the police are at full strength and efforts are focussed on keeping things that way. 

But a contingency plan is in place to ensure round-the-clock emergency response no matter what happens.

Police command is setting up a new shift pattern that will have officers working 12-hour shifts to boost force numbers at any one time.

If numbers are reduced by police officers being exposed to the virus or being required to self-isolate, Byrne said the next line of defence was the special constables.

Chris Duggan, commandant of the special constable unit, a volunteer force of fully trained officers which supplements the police on weekends and holidays, said the unit was ready to deploy as needed.

All the officers have full-time jobs, but Duggan, who works for Dart Enterprises, believes private-sector companies will have no issue releasing them to do full-time police work if it becomes necessary.

“All of our employers are aware and supportive of our roles, especially in times like this,” he said. “We are on standby to bring all our officers in to play a far more regular role.”

Byrne said all special constables were fully trained for the job they would need to do.

“Frontline policing is where it all starts at this time of need,” he added.

While hygiene protocols and other measures are in place to stop any potential exposure of officers to the virus, Byrne acknowledged it was possible that a major island-wide outbreak could deplete his forces.

“Then I would run into difficulties and start talking to the governor,” he said.

Byrne has already discussed options with Governor Martyn Roper, including drawing in officers from other territories or from the UK, if available.

He added that police could look to the wider community, possibly including private security firms, for support, if there was a dramatic drop in numbers.

The commissioner does not expect that to be necessary, however. He said government had moved rapidly to get “ahead of the curve” in the public health crisis and  he expects to be able to run at full force throughout.

“There is nothing to suggest we won’t get through this and come out of it stronger as a community,” he added.

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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