THERE are claims police officers are being made “scapegoats for poor policy and law writing” amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation has spoken of the challenges the third national lockdown is bringing to policing and the reality of what officers are facing.

He said police officers are “between a rock and a hard place” with a “public which have polar opinions in regard to the Covid regulations”.

“On one side you have those who think the regulations should not apply to them and will seek every opportunity to twist the rules to suit their personal benefit, then you have those who are crying out for a strong enforcement line, because they are in fear of Covid spreading,” said Mr Booth.

“Walking a tightrope between maintaining public confidence and upholding the law is not made easy with poor guidance.

“At the end of the first lockdown I highlighted the difficulties officers were facing when it came down to trying to help police the pandemic with such woolly laws - roll on six months and we are still in the same position.”

Mr Booth was speaking after Derbyshire Police attracted criticism for issuing two women with £200 fines after they drove separately to go for a walk at a remote beauty spot around five miles from their homes.

And there was much discussion on social media over the weekend after a claim was made that police were on the Spen Valley Greenway fining people for walking/running with their friends, seemingly adding to confusion over what is and isn’t allowed.

Mr Booth said the rules need to be made clear to the public.

He said: “Police officers are being made scapegoats for poor policy and law writing.

“Make it clear for the public, for example - If it is desired that exercise be limited to local, then clearly state in law what local is. Do not insert it into guidance that has no legal standing. The NHS is in crisis, my colleagues have a part to play in protecting the NHS and upholding law. Please have a review of what you expect and don’t keep leaving my colleagues hung out to dry.”

Home Secretary, Priti Patel said police officers are playing a “crucial role” in controlling the spread of the virus.

She added: “The vast majority of the public have supported this huge national effort and followed the rules. But the tragic number of new cases and deaths this week shows there is still a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules.

“Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that. Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”

However, Downing Street seemed unsure over what the current restrictions cover. Asked yesterday if it is within coronavirus rules for a single person to sit on a park bench, a No 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Let me take that one away and come back to you, on the … park bench question.”

Pressed over confusion on Covid rules regarding whether people can consume takeaway teas or coffees in public, the spokesman said: “Takeaways are allowed, or restaurants, or cafes are allowed to provide takeaways. People are allowed to leave their homes if it’s for exercise, not socialising.”

Asked if someone can sit on a park bench and have a coffee under current coronavirus regulations, the spokesman said: “We have set out clearly the rules. We have been clear in the exemption for the stay-at-home rule: we are permitting one person to meet another person for exercise.”Asked if walking outside with a takeaway tea is against the rules, the spokesman said: “Going for a walk, obviously, does count as exercise.”

On a West Yorkshire level, police have highlighted the ‘Encourage, Explain and Engage’ approach, but said they will Enforce “where people are flagrantly, blatantly and repeatedly breaking the rules”.