Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

    A threat to public safety: policing, racism and the Covid-19 pandemic

    Williams, Patrick ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2537-2735, Joseph-Salisbury, Remi, Harris, Scarlet and White, Lisa (2021) A threat to public safety: policing, racism and the Covid-19 pandemic. Project Report. Institute for Race Relations.

    Published Version
    Download (2MB) | Preview


    The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact, illustrated most acutely by a death toll which, at the time of writing, stands at over 4 million globally, including the death of over 131,000 people across the UK. The UK government was initially slow to recognise the profound dangers of the pandemic, but after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 16 March 2020 plea to the public to stay at home, emergency legislation was rushed through parliament giving police extraordinary powers to enforce unprecedented restrictions on social gatherings and fine those who break the rules. On 25 March, the 350-page Coronavirus Act 2020 received royal assent, bringing the biggest restrictions on civil liberties in a generation into law on 26 March 2020. This report, while not questioning the vital need to prioritise the protection of life during the pandemic, questions why policing was made so central to the emergency response and why the police’s leading role in enforcing unprecedented emergency measures has been left unscrutinised. Even as the Coronavirus Act 2020 was rushed through parliament, civil liberties organisations were alerting parliamentarians to its dangers, noting in particular Schedule 21 of the Act which permitted the police and law enforcement apparatus to ‘restrict a “potentially infectious” individual’s movements and to enforce measures such as isolation and testing’ (Harris et al., 2021: 1-2). Overnight, the Coronavirus Act, along with the broader raft of legal restrictions under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations, made it unlawful to undertake a wide range of hitherto economically essential, pro-social and non-criminal behaviours and actions including ‘limits on movement, travel, gatherings, and the operation of businesses and other premises’ (ibid: 1). The implementation of these restrictions varied across time, with periods of heightened restrictions commonly referred to as ‘lockdown’.

    Impact and Reach


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics for this dataset are available via IRStats2.

    Actions (login required)

    View Item View Item