After a month of the website being launched we have started to see a slowing in the number of reports coming in each day. This could be explained by a number of reasons such as people becoming more informed about what the restrictions are and how they operate, a possible drop of police operations or enforcement, or because of restrictions being eased in some states.
What we are concerned about is that there are still people being stopped and fined by police but these are not being reported and recorded.
From conversations with people working in the community service sector, we know that stops and fines are still happening – and we are hearing that they are happening to communities who typically experience targeting, marginalisation and over-policing. We are reaching out to community service organisations and groups to try and ensure that we are recording as many incident reports as possible.
Until police across the continent release data of the number of stops and fines being issued, the reasons for these stops and fines, and the post-code locations they are happening in – sites like this are the only way to build an independent picture of how COVID-19 restrictions are being policed, whether they are being enforced fairly, and to identify any trends in policing. To help us do this work please share this site with your friends, family, and colleagues and on your social media.
We have also added the ability to list third-party reports so that agency workers can make a report, with permission, on behalf of a client or service user.
easing of restrictions
Some States have begun the process of easing restrictions. As of Saturday 2 May 2020, people in Queensland are able to travel for non-essential reasons so long as they stay within 50 km of their homes. Those who live near borders with other states are being warned to remain informed of the differing restrictions as they can still be fined when crossing over into another state, even if they are still within the 50km radius.
The Northern Territory has lifted the 10 person limit on gatherings and is permitting people to go outside for non-essential reasons like non-contact sports, fishing, camping, and swimming. Western Australia has increased their limit on gatherings from 2 people to 10 people.
NSW is allowing households to have two visitors at a time (with their children) with no limit on how many visitors they are allowed per day. And people in the ACT are being permitted to leave the Canberra region to visit family and friends.
in the news
NSW police fined three Indigenous NRL players after images were shared on Instagram of them breaching non-essential traveling and gatherings restrictions by having a weekend away with around 10 other people at one of the player’s houses. The players received $1000 fines each from NSW police and another $20,000 in fines from the NRL. This is in contrast to the $4,000 Nathan Cleary, a non-Indigenous player, was fined by the NRL for having six friends over to his house – also busted through photos shared online. Latrell Mitchell, one of the three fined over the weekend away, has called out the role that racism and racial bias has likely played in these fine discrepancies.
Adnyamathanha elder Malcolm McKenzie was arrested on 28 April 2020 after protesting a truck carrying barricades coming into the town of Davenport where the community has been on strictly enforced restrictions since March. The town of Davenport has no grocery store and limited medical services making the travel and quarantine restrictions particularly onerous for residents. Police handcuffed Malcom McKenzie and refused to take them off when he informed police they were painful – he has since been experiencing pins and needles in his hands.
There’s also been reports of military personnel alongside police conducting liquor officer duties at a bottle shop in Tennant Creek. Our government has deployed military personnel to the Northern Territory to assist with the COVID-19 response and there is growing concern about their involvement in policing duties.
The Scarlet Alliance, the peak sex worker organisation, has raised concerns that sex workers are being targeted by police for stops and fines. This compounds the vulnerable position sex workers are facing in this pandemic already experiencing sever losses of income where the “re-criminalising of sex work in the name of COVID-19” is putting them in a position to choose between possible fines and criminal charges or earning no income.
A person in Sydney was arrested and charged for breaching the directions on spitting during the pandemic. The person is accused, among other charges, of spitting on police officers, a paramedic, and a member of the public. In NSW spitting on an emergency worker, pharmacist, or other public health official is a $5,000 on the spot fine.
Between Friday 1 May and Saturday 2 May, NSW police also charged three people under the Public Health Act (NSW) and issued seven COVID-19 fines.
summary of reports
This past week we have received five incident reports, 4 from Victoria and 1 from NSW.
Most of our incoming reports this week were from Victoria.
Two people in Ocean Grove were given on the spot fines of $1652 while taking photos out on a walk. The police said they were responding to a call that someone had climbed into a window. The police did not charge the pair for any alleged trespass and fined the pair stating that photography was non-essential.
An 18-year-old was fined $1652 on the spot for playing basketball with friends. They are now very concerned about their ability to pay the fine as they are a casual fast-food employee.
A witness to a fine wrote in after they saw a police car drive onto the footpath in Fitzroy in order to stop a person hanging out on the corner who was visibly experiencing homelessness. The witness spoke to the person after the police had left and discovered that the person was recently released from prison, had no housing, and was being supported by the local community. The police issued the person with $3,600 in fines. The witness reported that the person was understandable unsure of how they were going to be able to pay the fine and what their other options were during the pandemic – where could they go and where could they take their possessions?
In Parkville and adult caring for their mother with significant health problems was fined for taking a rest during a walk around a park in Parkville. After walking for 15 minutes, their mother needed to take a rest and the pair sat on a par bench. Not long after two police officers approached and asked “Do you know what is happening in the world these days? Do you listen to the news? Don’t you have Facebook?” The person writing in reported feeling confused about the restrictions around being able to walk but not to take a rest. They also reported apparent inconsistencies in the policing of this as they observed several other pairs of people in the park sitting on benches or on the grass but not being questioned by police.
One person from NSW wrote in after police forced entry into their home and did not abide by social distancing requirements. The person reported feeling stressed and scared by having so many people in their home not adhering to public health restrictions and potentially exposing them to the virus after weeks of self-isolation to keep themselves safe.
Other reports and upcoming events
Amnesty International Australia has released a statement outlining their concerns with policing during the COVID-19 pandemic – including concerns that precedents set down now could carry on post-lockdown. The statement can be read in full here.
At 1:00pm AEST on 12 May 2020 the Public Interest Advocacy Centre is hosting forum on zoom to discuss police powers during COVID-19. PIAC CEO Jonathon Hunyor will be in conversation with journalist Osman Faruqi (Schwartz Media’s 7am), Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) CEO Karly Warner, barrister Felicity Graham (Black Chambers) and PIAC’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Service Managing Solicitor Roslyn Cook. You can register for the event here.
Digital Rights Watch have also released a new publication detailing concerns around the new COVID-19 laws across the continent, the tracking app, and the increase in government intervention in and surveillance of our lives. You can read the full article here.
Human rights researcher Eda Seyhan has been monitoring abuses of police and emergency powers internationally during the Coronavirus pandemic at @COVIDStateWatch. She finds that police officers have harassed, abused, beaten and killed people in their efforts to enforce coronavirus-related curfews and lockdowns on nearly every continent. Her latest article provides a chilling global overview of police overreach and the impact of policing on the already targeted populations.
She writes: “The deadly, and often discriminatory, impact of coronavirus policing is probably much greater than we currently think. Through the COVID State Watch project, we have encountered hundreds of cases of ill-treatment and misconduct by police enforcing coronavirus restrictions.
But journalists, activists and NGOs only succeed in documenting a small fraction of cases of police abuse, even in the absence of the difficulties presented by the lockdown. Very few victims make official complaints and formal channels of information-gathering, such as freedom of information requests, face delays and obstruction due to the lockdown.”
The full article can be read here.
The Conversation has published an article on the increase of government secrecy across parts of the United States and in other countries such as the Philippines.
“Since the spread of coronavirus accelerated in recent weeks, local, state and federal officials throughout the United States have locked down information from the public.”
The article can be found here.
Previous weekly round-ups can be found here.
Covidpolicing.org.au is collaborative project is run by legal and human rights advocacy organisations, backed up by a network of policing academics around Australia.
We thank all people who have taken the time to make a report and to all those who have contributed, supported, shared or promoted this project.
For more information about the project please see: https://covidpolicing.org.au/about/
If you would like to contact any of the partners in this project, you can reach us by e-mail at [email protected].