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Commissioner McGrail Reflects on COVID19 Policing as ‘Unlock the Rock’ Process Begins

Chris Gomez

“In Gibraltar we police by consent, and I’ve had to give very serious consideration to the impact our enforcement activity would have on the legitimacy of the RGP and our relationship with the community.”

Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) Commissioner Ian McGrail reflected on the challenges facing the police force and the Gibraltarian public during a covid19 press conference on the 3rd of May.

With 965 interventions in relation to breaches of COVID19 regulations carried out in just over a month, he envisaged further challenges as lockdown restrictions begin to ease and warned against complacency in the face of the pandemic.

Commissioner McGrail revealed that since the 23rd of March up to the 3rd of April 2020, a total of 965 police interventions have been carried out.

Approximately 85.2% of these interventions were requests to go home (438 incidents) and warnings and advice (384 incidents).

48 people have been arrested for violations of lockdown regulations, 12 reported for processing and 83 people have been escorted home.

216 of these interventions were with persons over the age of 70 and therefore in the vulnerable category and who, until the 29th of April, were not allowed to leave their homes at all.

RGP checks ID cards during lockdown in March 2020 | Photo: Chris Gomez

The Commissioner said: “We fully understand the stresses the restrictions bring us; enforcement is not our preferred option, but we will process people if they do not take heed instructions or requests made by officers.”

He appealed that the public should not feel “sour about police telling you what to do, and what not to do”.

Individual Responsibility

RGP Commissioner Ian McGrail | Photo: Fran Montes

The Commissioner continued “we are here to ensure the individual and collective safety of Gibraltar, but what is clear is that this responsibility is very difficult to uphold by ourselves, it is as much the responsibility of businesses and individuals.”

He also called for “common sense” to prevail during this global health crisis, and asked that the public should practise self-policing:

“Start policing your very own selves, so that we as a society can pull through this a lot better. I say this because I strongly sense that many people have formed the mindset that they are immune to the virus … these people will be the same ones with the view that the public health crisis we’re all living through was inappropriately handled by authorities when the virus spreads.”

This comes one day after retail stores officially re-opened on the 2nd of May as part of the ‘Unlock the Rock’ initiative and the lifting of restrictions on those over the age of 70 on the 29th of April to be allowed to leave their homes for exercise.

Police patrol Main Street, May 2nd 2020 as Retail Shops Reopen | Photo: Chris Gomez

Much welcomed news for over 70’s who have been at home for over a month and business owners who have been worried about the survival of their businesses and their futures, as well as those of their employees.

But this did not come without some controversy over the weekend as debates sparked online as to whether social distancing was being adhered to in Main Street as shops reopened and some unverified images of crowds surfaced online.

At least one photo of a packed Main Street has been found to be several months old, with a women in the foreground wearing cruise ship identity badges when no cruise ship has been in port for several months.

Why fake photographs should have been uploaded perhaps reflects the psychosis that the whole Covid situation seems to have caused among a small minority of citizens.

Gibraltar Golden Hour
Commonwealth Park First Day of Golden Hour Initiative for over 70’s | Photo: Chris Gomez

Commenting on this debate yesterday during a press conference, Minister Paul Balban said “some of the pictures, and the angles they come in give the impression that Main Street is full. We need to fully assess whether this is correct or not.”

He then went on to use the analogy of the tap; whereby there has been a constant flow of water and that flow has increased due to opening the tap further and the excitement of shops being open after some time. He said, “we’re pretty confident that this will ebb down and the flow will come back to a steadier flow, which is what we want.”

What do you think?