Bishop Tom Burns has has written to members of the Catholic Police Guild to express his support for law enforcement as police forces face the challenges presented by Covid-19.
In the letter, Bishop Burns, retired Bishop of Menevia and Bishop Liaison to the Catholic Police Guild of England and Wales, acknowledges how police forces have had to adapt to maintaining law and order in the new circumstances, while noting that without the general public’s goodwill and consent the job would be impossible.
‘That general compliance comes in response to police tolerance and understanding,’ he writes. ‘Whilst back-up is available to combat the un-cooperative, a show of heavy-handedness rarely triumphs over extending the hand of empathy.’
The bishop recalls how, in his youth, prior to traffic lights becoming widespread, traffic would come to a standstill on Remembrance Day when at exactly 11am a Police Constable would step out into the middle of the road, and raise his white-gloved hand.
Describing the one minute’s silence for the war-dead as ‘an amazing gesture of respect and unity’, the bishop likens it to ‘a similar kind of respect and unity’ shown in recent months.
‘People have been pulling together, contributing time and resources, helping each other out, re-stocking food banks, delivering food and necessities, raising money for charity, and a host of other kindnesses and acts of selflessness on a larger scale than I have ever seen before in my lifetime. NHS workers have been hailed as heroes,’ he writes.
‘Last night I went out into the street and joined the clapping for them. I rang my old school bell, to a background noise of fireworks. Then I remembered our Police Forces, and rang the bell even harder!’
Warning that Covid-19 does not discriminate, Bishop Burns acknowledges that the virus is with us for the long haul and that the police are not protected from its reach.
‘The Police have not escaped its evil tentacles. Officers and support staff have been afflicted or have had to self-isolate; others have had to step in to cover their duties. The criminal fraternity has disgracefully exploited these times for their own greed and advantage.
‘But police tact and good humour have continued to win the day in the eyes of a generally grateful public. This has induced compliance with police directions. It has avoided challenges to authority and the risk of overthrowing it. It has reflected mutual patience and consideration.
‘For, we are all in this together, whether we wear a uniform or not. But some are more exposed than others. They are on the front-line. More than anyone, they know that what we have today we may not have tomorrow,’ the bishop writes, adding: ‘But, as a chocaholic, I don’t want another Easter without a chocolate egg!
‘Keep smiling. Keep safe. You are doing a great job!
‘You are all in my prayers,’ he concludes.
Picture: Police patrol the streets of Glasgow as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Andrew Milligan/PA).