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Weekes: my priority is safety

  • Getting compliance to public health: Martin Weekes, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, headed the serviceís response to the Covid-19 pandemic said that his number one priority was public safety (Photograph supplied)

The senior police officer who headed the serviceís response to the Covid-19 pandemic said that his number one priority was public safety.

But Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes added that he and officers under his command had no plans to be ďheavy-handedĒ with the extra responsibilities they had been given during the pandemic.

He said: ďWe understand why the state of emergency has been declared ó it is not for the police to exercise powers that they wouldnít already have, itís not for us to make peopleís lives difficult.

ďItís all about public safety ó thatís what these powers have been given to us for.

ďIt is not to abuse them, itís not to create a police state ó itís about public health and itís about getting compliance to public health.Ē

Mr Weekes said that his role involved the reorganisation of policing efforts to deal with the problems caused by the pandemic.

He explained that this required him to plan patrols over the shelter in place regulations and establish rules to keep officers protected from potential danger.

Mr Weekes said that the approach altered as the Government altered its regulations, the goal of public protection remained.

He added: ďThe whole point of our policing strategy is to get compliance for public health safety ó it is not about criminalising what would otherwise be normal behaviour.

ďIf someone is out riding a bike at two in the morning and they run from police theyíre probably going to end up in court, but weíre not trying to criminalise people who are just going about their normal business and either didnít understand that they werenít supposed to be out or they thought they were still within the time limit.Ē

Me Weekes said that he tried to work in the field with other officers despite being classed as high risk from Covid-19.

He explained: ďIím in the older population ó Iím probably one of the oldest guys in the police service ó and Iíve got a couple of health issues myself, so Iím in the high risk area.

ďBut I have to demonstrate what I want my people to do and if I want my subordinates to do certain things then I have to model the behaviour that Iím expecting to see form them.

ďSo Iíve got to come to work, Iíve got to practice social distancing, Iíve got to wear a mask where itís appropriate and Iíve got to come to work and not be scared.Ē Mr Weekes added that he visited officers on the streets as often as he could.

He said: ďIíve been on the ground, talked to the guys on the checkpoints and Iíve come in on a Saturday night and talked to the guys who are on patrol, just to check in and make sure that they donít have any concerns.

ďPeople seem to be pleased to see senior management come out to check on their concerns.

ďIf we as senior management donít want them to be scared to be out there, then we have to show them that weíre not scared to be out there too.Ē