A Bristol police officer has revealed heartwarming messages of support amid the coronavirus pandemic – and some people’s strange reactions to seeing him.
PC Ashley Tucker has witnessed a surge in “random acts of kindness” from the public, as well as some unconvincing excuses for being outside.
The 28-year-old, based at Trinity Road Police Station in Old Market, said: “Some people will work their way down a list of things they can do during lockdown.
“They will say they are going shopping, then you’ll see them a bit later and they’ll go, ‘Oh, I’m exercising now.’
“One person burst out laughing when they realised I’d cottoned on.
“When lockdown first came in, there were people going for a walk who would start running away if we approached. I was just thinking, ‘Why are you running?’”
PC Tucker, who is from Weston-super-Mare, believes the “panic” of those reactions stems from a misunderstanding of officers’ approach to enforcing restrictions.
He said: “Because of social media maybe showing other countries where policing has been a lot more robust, there was initially some confusion.
“We actually want to engage with people and encourage them to go home. We’re not looking to give out fines for no reason.
“As officers we’re finishing work and following the guidelines as well, so we understand the situation. I’ve not had to give a single fine to anyone yet.”
The response officer – who covers Clifton, Speedwell, Fishponds, Easton, St Pauls and the city centre – is attending around two lockdown breach call-outs a day.
He was responding to about five a day shortly after the restrictions on movement came in, which has dropped as more people have got the message.
“I’ve had some resistance in terms of people trying to put their point of view across, but nothing has got to a point where I’ve had to issue a fine,” PC Tucker said.
“Usually it is a case of people gathering outside, and we’ve had some reports of BBQs as well.
“I attended one where a few people had gone round and had a BBQ in someone’s front garden.
“They left prior to our arrival, but I could see the BBQ cooling down and the occupant admitted there’d been a gathering, so we explained the restrictions.”
‘If you’re not from this house, go away’
The officer said the response was better than he could have hoped for.
“I was driving by the other day and the same person had put up a load of signs saying, ‘If you’re not from this house, go away,’” he laughed.
PC Tucker added lockdown breaches have been a “small proportion” of his work, with most people in his patch staying home.
“The majority of people have been amazing,” he said. “I couldn’t speak any higher of them.
“It’s been really nice to see some people be so supportive of the emergency services and the NHS.”
One example which he recalls fondly came when he was returning from the Keynsham custody suite to Trinity Road.
“I was at the Bath Road junction with Broomhill Road. The traffic lights were red and a gentleman wound down his window next to me.
“I was thinking ‘oh God’ but he just told me, ‘I wanted to say I really appreciate what you are all doing.’
“I didn’t really know what to say back. It kept me smiling for a fair bit that day. Random acts of kindness seem to be more frequent.”
Avon and Somerset Constabulary had handed out 260 fines to people ignoring restrictions – 105 of them in Bristol – as of May 1.
A total of 16,451 breaches had been reported to the force.
Keep an eye on Bristol Live tomorrow for our follow-up interview, in which PC Tucker reveals more about life enforcing the lockdown.