This site is not about looking for loopholes. It is vital that we all observe public health restrictions and help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
However, many legal and human rights advocates are deeply concerned about how police will enforce these new public health laws. Throughout Australia, strict measures have been recommended by public health officials to address the serious health risk posed by the Coronavirus. New and extraordinary powers have been given to police to enforce an unprecedented lock-down, closing businesses, banning gatherings, and restricting when people can be outside their homes. These powers are time-limited but can be extended as the crisis continues.
Police commissioners around the country have stated that discretion will be used in issuing fines and enforcing directions, but the nature of the legislation means that there remains confusion. In many cases individual police have to determine what is ‘reasonable’ or what warrants a penalty.
The expansion of police authority–no matter how justified by circumstances–can expand the opportunities for abuse and unjust violation of rights. It could lead to harms, particularly for individuals and communities who already experience a high level of discriminatory policing.
We need to ensure police are using their new powers responsibly, fairly, and without bias and prejudice. This site will help us monitor the everyday-impact of new policing powers, and whether they are being used responsibly.
Who is this?
This collaborative project is run by legal and human rights advocacy organisations, backed up by a network of policing academics with a coordinator in each state. Some prominent coalition partners are:
This project aims to collect incidents, reports and examples from members of the public for monitoring, legal advocacy and reporting.
If incidents and issues can be collated across Australia we can get a picture of any harms caused by these powers, We can see if they are being used in a discriminatory way against particular groups or communities or if they are being over-used or misused.
Your accounts, reports and testimony can help ensure that policing is fair and aligned with the public health restrictions during the crisis.
What Governments need to do
In light of the reach and extent of these new powers we are calling upon each State and Territory government to immediately direct their respective police oversight bodies to:
- Monitor the police response to COVID-19,
- Scrutinise and report upon the application of new police powers,
- Receive complaints from citizens who report instances of police brutality,
- Investigate instances of discriminatory policing or police misconduct.