Military will not be needed on the frontline to enforce new Covid rules, says police chief
The military are unlikely to be needed to enforce Boris Johnson's new coronavirus crackdown, a police chief has said as he pledged they would not replace officers on the frontline.
Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), insisted that the military would only be deployed to "backfill" police roles to free up officers for the frontline.
It followed Mr Johnson's offer to police forces to "draw on military support where required to free up the police".
Mr Hewitt denied any suggestion that it was an indication that forces were not up to the job, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think it suggests that at all. The military have been involved with us throughout the Covid crisis. We already have plans that allow the military to backfill into roles to release police officers in certain circumstances.
"We are not in that position now, but I think it is sensible to have those conversations and think about that plan. Under no circumstances would there be military personnel in frontline, public facing roles instead of policing.
"That isn't what we would do. It isn't any part of the plan, but there might be a point where using military personnel to backfill roles to release police officers might be necessary. But it's not necessary at the moment, and I don't anticipate that situation."
Mr Hewitt said police were looking for extra funds to be able to release officers to focus on policing Covid regulations (watch Mr Johnson addressing the nation about the new measures in the video below), and indicated that officers would move more quickly to take action where there were breaches of the rules.
"What is clear is that there are cohorts of people who are not following the rules, are not responding to that and I think we do need to send a very clear message to people," he said. "This is not about enforcement, it's about reducing the spread of the virus."
He also said there had been a rise in members of the public reporting neighbours for breaches of the regulations, adding: "We have seen an increase of people phoning in to say they believe others are not abiding by those rules."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman later clarified that military personnel could be used to fill police office roles and guard protected sites in order to free up officers so they can enforce the coronavirus rules.
The spokesman said soldiers would not be replacing the police in enforcement roles "and they will not be handing out fines".
Mr Johnson has also promised to provide the police and local authorities "with the extra funding they need".