4 April Update

Policing

At what would have been the start of the school Easter break and with temperatures at their highest in 2020, the police were sounding the alarm at the prospect of tens of thousands of people ignoring the warnings to stay home in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

In Lincolnshire, the police went as far as declaring that the east coast was “closed”.

In London, the Metropolitan Police Federation had started to demand that parents were fined if their offspring are caught ignoring lockdown guidance. So much for “engage, explain, encourage”. Some of the other usual suspects amongst retired officers turned media commentators were pushing the ‘ignorant public’ line again too.

However, despite these apocalyptic warnings, it appears as though, overwhelmingly, the public is listening to government advice.

This has not stopped Avon & Somerset Police from becoming the latest force to launch an online service for people to report individuals and businesses breaching government guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Neither did it stop Dyfed Powys Police from putting up signs informing Pembrokeshire residents that, contrary to the updated College of Policing guidance, they face fines for driving to exercise and that vehicle details will be recorded for possible future arrests.

In south London, a police van was spotted driving around a largely empty park blaring out the instruction, “no sunbathing… exercise only”.

RESOURCES

“Policing the pandemic: “security” for whom?” by Iida Käyhkö and Laura Schack in ROAR magazine argues that the human tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic must not be permitted to become a pretext for the expansion of state powers that brutalise vulnerable communities

The Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School has shared a recording of their first COVID19 Advancing Justice event, on states of emergency and government powers in and after the pandemic, with guest speakers including Fionnuala Ni Aolain (UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism), Isabel Linzer (Freedom House), and Yaqiu Wang (Human Rights Watch); moderated by Ryan Goodman (NYU/Just Security).

To halt spread of COVID-19, democracies and dictatorships alike are expanding the use of surveillance technologies—a measure that could have repercussions long after the virus is contained. Read how authoritarian regimes use tools of digital repression. Article in Foreign Affairs (h/t @MartinBroek)

For Briarpatch, Fitsum Areguy  interviewed Desmond Cole about his new book The Skin We’re In on systemic inequality in Canada. “He dedicates an entire chapter to community policing, raising a number of questions: What information are police collecting through these programs? Who are they collecting information about? How long is this information kept? And why?”

Drawing on previous crises, Cole argues that “as society restructures in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, laws designed to punish those who are ‘endangering public health’ will land heavily on marginalized communities.”

The police have never kept Black, Indigenous, and poor people safe, and that remains true in these Covidian times. We must be wary of increasing police powers during the crisis, lest the police embed themselves even deeper in our communities under the guise of ‘community policing’ after the dust settles.”

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