Amnesty International Australia and the Grata Fund call on State and Territory governments and all relevant bodies to publicly release guidelines used by police to enforce COVID-19 social distancing regulations.
A growing list of organisations are now calling for improved police accountability to maintain public trust as COVID-19 health regulations are enforced.
To monitor this, a website where people can report incidents of police over-reach has been launched. At the end of its first week of operation, 28 inappropriate or concerning police interactions have been reported.
Over recent days police have issued and then retracted fines to people going mountain biking, putting holiday snaps on social media and to a teenager taking driving lessons.
“The public trust in police is absolutely essential for managing this crisis, and controversial early incidents directly undermine this goal. Clear guidelines are needed to clarify both to the public and the police, where the lines of responsibility lay in COVID-19 social safety measures”, Amnesty International Australia campaigner Tim O’Connor said.
“We understand the need for restrictions on movement in response to a one-in-100 year pandemic, but that response should still have human rights at its core and should be proportionate and applied with common sense.”
“While these reports concern us, what’s really alarming is the potential for vulnerable people in our community to be unfairly targeted.
“It’s hard to understand the utility of harassing a homeless person who doesn’t have the luxury of self isolation, or of picking on Indigenous kids who are already grossly overrepresented in the prison system.
“The guidelines for enforcement of social distancing regulations must be made public as soon as possible. If these guidelines permit the inappropriate behaviour of police that has been reported, they must be changed. If not, then police must be held accountable,” Grata Fund Executive Director Isabelle Reinecke said.
“We’re asking everyone in the community to record and report instances of police overreach at https://covidpolicing.org.au/