London’s top cop is waiting for more direction from the province about what role officers will play in enforcing the new stay-at-home order, which comes into effect Thursday.
“We’re still waiting for the finer details, in terms of regulations and what specifically the order looks like and what’s being asked of police,” Steve Williams, chief of the London Police Service, told CBC News.
He expects the information later Wednesday or in the coming days.
“I can tell you there are obviously legitimate reasons why people might be out and about and Premier Ford’s announcement alluded to that, so for medical, groceries, things like that, there’s going to be exceptions.”
In a written statement, Williams said the service is reviewing preliminary information received from the province Tuesday and is waiting for clarification and more details.
He also told CBC News the majority of enforcement the police service does now, when it comes to the Reopening Ontario Act, is complaint-based. He said it might continue to be complaint-based moving forward.
“If we get information in terms of a complaint, we could talk to the person and ask them (why they’re out) and take appropriate action from there. But we’ll have to see what the finer details are, and what the police powers are as well.”
During an media update Wednesday afternoon, Ontario’s Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, said the Reopening Ontario Act is very clear.
“If you are not at your place of residence and you need to be fined or you will be ticketed as a result of the orders, they [law enforcement] have an obligation to ask for your name, date of birth and address to lay that ticket,” she said.
Williams also addressed concerns that people of colour or residents living in low-income communities would be disproportionately impacted by enforcement measures.
“I’m aware of rumours and speculation in the community about what enforcement will look like and I can say much of it is just that, it’s unfounded rumour and innuendo,” he said. “All our members are committed to bias-free policing. That’s whether it’s related to COVID restrictions or any other type of enforcement.”
In the statement, Williams also said that service is “mindful that there are many in our community who don’t have a home to go to each night, and as has been our practice, we will continue to offer compassion to these individuals and work with our community partners to offer appropriate support.”
As of midnight tonight, Williams said that no indoor gatherings beyond immediate households would be permitted and outdoor gatherings would be limited to five people.
“We will not hesitate to take appropriate action when our community is at risk,” the statement said.
Under provincial regulations, people who live alone or single parents are allowed to consider spending time exclusively with another family to mitigate mental health impacts.