A British Police Chief Claimed Officers Could Search Supermarket Trollies For Nonessential Items. Now He's Backtracked.

    Nick Adderley, Northamptonshire's chief constable, warned the public his officers could check to make sure people were buying only "legitimate, necessary items".

    Nick Adderley

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    A bungling police chief who contradicted official government guidance by warning that officers could search shopping trollies for nonessential items has retracted his comments.

    Nick Adderley, chief constable of Northamptonshire, warned the public not to buy nonessential items from supermarkets and claimed that if people continued to do so, officers would start to check baskets and trolleys.

    "We will not at this stage be starting to marshal supermarkets and check the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it is a legitimate and necessary item," he said, "but again, be under no illusion, if people do not heed the warnings and pleas that I'm making today, we will start to do that."

    UK Police:“We will not at this stage be starting to marshal supermarkets and check-in the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it is a legitimate necessary item but...if people do not head the warnings...we will start to do that” - @NorthantsChief https://t.co/lrFxFWrBGv

    Adderley's comments went against government advice. Downing Street said on Thursday that people were free to buy whatever is on the shelves of the shops that are remaining open.

    Home secretary Priti Patel criticised Adderley's comments. "That's not appropriate, let me clear about that," she told TalkRadio. "That is not the guidance."

    Former justice secretary David Gauke condemned the "worrying and unacceptable authoritarian" remarks.

    By and large, the police are doing a very good job in difficult circumstances. But there are a small minority whose behaviour has been wholly inappropriate. The threat made in this clip reveals worrying and unacceptable authoritarian instincts. https://t.co/sMJI3Lvla5

    Following criticism of his comments, Adderley issued a retraction, clarifying that "we will not be judge and jury on what is an essential item or not".

    To be clear on the shopping trolley issue: This is about essential and necessary journeys, not what’s in your trolley. I have been clear that we will not be judge and jury on what is an essential item or not, but we may now probe the purpose of the journey.

    I will keep reiterating the position, we will NOT be searching trolleys or baskets and we will not be determining what is and isn’t an essential item. The point I was making was around the necessity of the journey.

    But the Northamptonshire police Twitter account then wrongly claimed that his clarification was made to correct "suggestions made in the media", when in fact Adderley made the remarks himself, on camera.

    To clarify some suggestions made in the media, we absolutely will NOT be searching people's shopping trolleys in Northamptonshire. The same message was communicated to our officers from the very moment we were given these new powers... https://t.co/tbBybJXtY8

    Ministers have privately raised concerns that some police forces have been heavy-handed and going beyond government guidance during the lockdown of the last two weeks.

    Derbyshire Police was heavily criticised for using drones to target people going for walks in the Peak District.

    BuzzFeed News has approached Northamptonshire police for comment.

    Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Alex Wickham at alex.wickham@buzzfeed.com.

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