Published: 17:00, 24 March 2020
| Updated: 17:55, 24 March 2020
Neil Mennie said it was impractical for officers to enforce compliance with all of the government's restrictions announced yesterday.
"We're a pretty stretched service and I think we're very, very reliant on the public taking the advice of government and actually carrying it out," he said.
"I get the sense that the majority of people probably will, but we do have a duty to the minority that don't.
"We'll do the best we can, but it's just not practical to police every single detail of the legislation as proposed and no one would suggest it could."
Mr Mennie stressed the police were willing to adapt to different circumstances.
"I think in this type of an emergency police officers generally are and will be extremely flexible and they will do their best to help out because that's just in their nature," he said.
"So I think there probably will be a lot of long shifts for them and some short notice changes, but they do that as part of their job anyway."
He added: "As with any other piece of legislation, and any other power, police officers will use the most important one and that is their discretion and their ability to communicate with the public.
"This is unprecedented and something I don't think any of us would ever have predicted, so we've got to try and do our best as we go along and I'm confident the public will do their best as well."
Asked if the new conditions might mean tackling other crimes would become more difficult, he said: "The force is working very hard to maintain normal business, it will do its best to do that.
"We're a pretty stretched service and I think we're very, very reliant on the public taking the advice of government and actually carrying it out..."
"This is a fast moving situation. There may come a point where we might have to consider a retreat from certain types of crime, obviously, it'd be much better and more business we can do, like non contact and over the phone and things like that.
"But in the future if things got really bad then of course the force could seriously look at the model we are running, we could end up in perhaps in a situation where we run a response-only or emergency-only. I stress we're nowhere near that yet."
Under the restrictions, the police and local authorities will have powers to disperse gatherings, including through fines. These will be reviewed every six months.
Today Kent Police say they have dispersed groups who were gathered on beaches between Folkestone and Hythe, with officers taking to Twitter to remind people of the need to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley has said his officers will enforce the new restrictions "to the letter" and has warned that those who do not follow instructions to break up gatherings could be fined. Trading Standards will be supported by police to enforce business closures where necessary.