THE CHAIRMAN of Wiltshire’s Police Federation has said officers are running out of PPE – and accused the government of treating coppers like second-class citizens.

Insp Mark Andrews said: “I don’t think there’s clear leadership from central government over who should get what and we’re bearing the brunt. We’re running out quite rapidly.”

Ministers have been criticised in recent weeks over concerns NHS frontline workers have had to treat coronavirus patients in inadequate personal protective equipment. The government has called in the Army to help distribute kit and set up a dedicated hotline for NHS staff to report concerns and order fresh PPE.

But Mr Andrews warned that police were still attending incidents without personal issue masks and aprons. He said: “We’re feeling like second-class citizens.”

The union boss added: “I have been warning about this for weeks now and it’s got to the point that I’m seriously worried that we are waiting for an operational police officer to die before the Government addresses this serious issue,” he said.

“To be frank, the feeling among the officers I represent is that we are effectively being treated as collateral damage by the Government in the continuing fight against the virus. That is completely unacceptable.

“Police officers are mums and dads, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. We want to go home at the end of every shift fit and healthy for our families. And we need the right kit and the right amount of it to protect us.”

He praised Wiltshire Police bosses, claiming the blame for a lack of PPE lay at the government’s door.

“Wiltshire Police managers are trying their best to get PPE, but there’s a breakdown in the command chain,” Mr Andrews said.

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “The welfare of my officers and staff is of paramount importance to me and getting the right protective equipment to them is crucial.

“It is no secret that, whilst responding to this unprecedented, national health pandemic, there have some issues with getting the right quantity of kit to emergency services across the country. Wiltshire Police is no exception to this.

“However, further to the regional and local coordination we have in place, we have secured a substantial quantity of protective equipment which is currently being collected. This will be in Force and distributed to front line officers, staff and special constable volunteers with immediate effect.

“We are following the nationally adopted guidance which is based on the latest evidence and science provided to us by Public Health England.

“I am in regular contact with the four other Chief Constable’s in the region to ensure there is consistency in the way we are all addressing this issue and we will, of course, all support each other as much as possible.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our police are doing a fantastic job keeping us safe, helping to protect our NHS and save lives, and the Government recognises the importance of Personal Protective Equipment.  

“The National Police Chiefs’ Council have confirmed that police currently have a good supply of PPE and they are working to oversee its distribution to forces

“We will continue to work extremely closely with police to ensure they receive the equipment they need, when they need it, in order to carry out their jobs safely.”