Rights based policing during COVID-19


COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for governments the world over. A wide range of government responses have followed. These have included border closures, national lockdowns, curfews, vast economic expenditure by many governments, including economic stimuli, and furlough schemes. The job of ensuring compliance with legislation and other public health rules and regulations has fallen to the police. The approaches to law enforcement have been wide-ranging and varied, including everything from strict, even violent, enforcement through to the use of discretion and strategies aimed at persuasion and community engagement.

This paper highlights five key lessons from this international experience:

  • Tough approaches that rush to enforcement, punishment and prosecution are not the best way of encouraging compliance;
  • New rules need to be defined clearly and explained effectively and consistently;
  • Policy decisions are needed to prioritise limited resources in order to enable the police to do their work in challenging circumstances;
  • New rules need to be applied equitably, and measures need to be introduced to ensure they do not cause undue harm to poor and marginalised people; and
  • Proper planning is key to ensuring law enforcement responses are effective, justified and proportionate, and that they have legitimacy
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