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A message to all our communities across Dorset

The last few weeks have been tough for everyone as restrictions put in place to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak continue to have an impact on us all.

I want to take this opportunity to reassure all of the communities across our county that Dorset Police, as well as myself and my team at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, are here for them.

Some of you will have lost families and loved ones to the virus, and haven’t been able to grieve properly as a result of the ongoing restrictions, and I want to offer my condolences to those for whom this global crisis has turned into a personal tragedy.

Impact on communities

Last week, a national review was launched into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, looking into why the virus appears to disproportionately affect people from these backgrounds.

Although we don’t yet have detailed information about whether this is the case locally, I understand that this perception remains, regardless of which part of the country you live, and I know this is very worrying for members of our communities.

While social isolation continues to be incredibly difficult for all of us, it will bring particular problems to people from some communities over the next few weeks.

Muslims are currently observing Ramadan – a vitally important time of spiritual renewal – and would ordinarily come together to enjoy the hospitality of each other’s households during the evening meal of Iftar after fasting throughout the day.

This year, sadly, will be very different because of the constraints caused by Covid-19.  Please see some advice Dorset Police has provided about marking Ramadan on their FAQs here.

Religious celebrations disrupted

The outbreak has disrupted other important celebrations for different religions, including Easter for Christians and Vaisakhi for Sikhs. The Jewish community, who have already experienced disruptions to their Passover celebrations, are set to mark the feast of Shavuot at the end of May.

Meanwhile, our Thai communities would have marked the New Year festival of Songkran – traditionally a time when individuals and families come together – earlier this month.

These restrictions affect everyone, regardless of faith or culture, and should give us fresh grounds for mutual understanding and solidarity across the communities that make up Dorset.

Although Dorset has not seen any increase in the number of hate crimes during this crisis, I know people continue to worry about being targeted.

Business as usual

As well as enforcing the lockdown restrictions, Dorset Police is still operating a business as usual model. The Force has always, and continues, to take a very robust line on hate crimes and hate incidents. Chief Constable James Vaughan and I have always been very clear that this is completely unacceptable and has no place in our county.

I know that many people who have experienced racial or religious abuse may not want to talk directly to the police, so please remember that there are a number of third party reporting centres across Dorset. These are places where trained members of staff can take your details and information about what happened to you, pass it on to the police and  let you know about support services. For information about help available and a list of Dorset’s third party reporting centres go here.

Dorset Race Equality Council has also published some guidance about support that is available to our communities during the coronavirus outbreak – see here.       

I don’t know how long the restrictions will continue, but I look forward to a future in which people from communities across Dorset will be able to get together to share a meal together once more. In the meantime please accept our best wishes.

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