Coronavirus (COVID-19): international policing responses - part 1 - during lockdown

This review (part 1) considers international policing approaches and responses to policing the lockdown, up to the 7 May 2020.


In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, police forces across the world have been given new emergency powers to ensure the public adhere to their country's lockdown rules. This paper describes what we know about how national police forces are policing and responding to the COVID-19 lockdown in other parts of the world, through a 'rapid intelligence review' of publicly available information.

The purpose of the paper is to describe how other countries are policing the lockdown and the issues emerging there, in order to provide an early assessment of considerations around policing for planning purposes. Countries which have been included are:

  • Comparable to Scotland (English speaking, Common Law) - England and Wales, New Zealand, and the USA
  • Further ahead in their experience of the pandemic and lockdown process to offer insights of issues arising around easing the lockdown - New Zealand, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, South Korea
  • Appear, at the time of writing, to have handled policing the lockdown well (New Zealand, South Korea)
  • Have chosen alternative approaches to a nation-wide lockdown (Sweden, South Korea)

There is some variation in the detail on countries presented here, due to differing availability of material and also time constraints. In order to avoid duplication of work, this paper does not explore the policing approach in Scotland, or public perceptions of the police's approach to enforcing the lockdown in Scotland. This is being addressed by John Scott QC's Independent Advisory Group (IAG). Instead the purpose of this paper is to identify any useful learning for Scotland.

This paper includes references to good and innovative practice - please note that these are what appear to be good and innovative practice based on the literature considered, and are unlikely to have been evaluated. Also, please note that 'social distancing' and 'physical distancing' refer to the same process, however some countries have chosen to use the latter as people are being recommended to keep physically distant while maintaining social connections.[7]

As the situation is constantly evolving, a follow-on paper has been produced Part 2 - International policing responses to COVID-19: Easing of lockdown (covering the period up until 15 June), which assesses how COVID-19 may have impacted international policing responses during the easing of lockdown in other countries, in order to identify any useful learning.



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