As most of Europe has now passed the desperate one year milestone of living with coronavirus, it is right that we stop to consider the impact this has had on freedom and liberty. Citizens across Europe are tired and frustrated at their lives swing from degrees of normality to virtual house arrest. They are tired of political inconsistency and are increasingly dismayed at cheap point scoring in tasteless league tables as to which country is performing better than its neighbours.
Throughout this past year our nations have seen some of the most authoritarian peace time restrictions ever imposed on our peoples. Activities that were part and parcel of daily life were simply outlawed. Restrictions were placed on our movements, on who we could have visit us in our homes, and even impacted on our relationships.
In the early days a combination of fear and uncertainty meant our populations largely accepted these impositions, but the passage of time and a failure to get on top of the virus, has seen a marked increase in non-compliance. Our citizens are worried about their livelihoods, their children’s education, and their futures, and are legitimately asking if the price they have already paid has been too high.
The inevitable impact of this has seen sections of our communities turn their anger and frustration on our police officers. Police officers who our governments have charged with enforcing the restriction on liberties they have created. Police officers who themselves feel abandoned by their governments as they face the hostility and risks of enforcing legislation against increasingly hostile sections of our communities without proper protective equipment, testing, or vaccination; and police officers who are exponentially exposed to risk of infection and transmission of the virus due to the very nature of what our legislators have asked them to do.
Now is not the time for complacency as we desperately look to vaccination allowing our lives to get back to normal. Our Governments need to recognise their decisions have made policing more difficult. They need to recognise that the curtailing of liberty always comes at a price, and we all need to hope that price is not at the cost of the confidence in our police forces.