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.

Main points from the paper

  • All countries analysed, apart from Sweden and South Korea, have followed a similar approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through a lockdown enforced by police officers. However, what is permissible under lockdown varies from country to country, and is also enforced differently within many countries
  • The four 'E's model of policing the coronavirus is being used in the UK, Republic of Ireland and New Zealand (an adapted model)[5]
  • In most countries individuals found breaking the lockdown are encouraged to obey the restrictions in the first instance, but there is variation in enforcement approaches. For example, where the four 'E's model is used, only when people persistently flout lockdown rules or resist police instructions to comply, have they been fined and in some cases arrested, whereas the Spanish Ombudsman launched an investigation into whether fines are being issued correctly and proportionately
  • Penalties range significantly across the countries examined here, from small fines to considerable prison sentences for particular coronavirus-related offences
  • Technology is being used to aid law enforcement (and public health) to varying degrees across jurisdictions, mostly through drones, telecoms tracing, and the development of contact-tracing apps
  • In some countries, the police have been using technology to monitor lockdown observance but are not using these methods generally as grounds to arrest or prosecute
  • Clashes between the public and the police because of the restrictions have occurred in Germany, France and the USA
  • In some countries the police anticipated an increase in domestic abuse as a result of the lockdown and proactively addressed this ahead of the lockdown
  • The speed with which legislation has been introduced in many countries has led to loopholes in the law which, in combination with a lack of police training and official guidance in the early stages, and a mismatch between the law and the guidance/narrative, have led to confusion about new police powers. This has exacerbated an already challenging role for the police



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