Police won’t be stopping and questioning people while stay-at-home order is in effect
A new stay-at-home order issued by the province is in effect, and many Ontario residents are confused about what exactly this means for them.
When the order first came into effect, Peel Regional Police urged residents to only call 9-1-1 in an emergency, as many citizens had taken to calling the emergency number with questions as to what they could do and where they could go according to the new legislation.
Additionally, some were concerned they might be stopped and questioned by police, and that they would need to produce some form of verification for why they were out of their house.
However, according to Jeff McGuire, executive director of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, that is not something people need to worry about.
"We're not going to be stopping cars and asking people where they're going, we're not going to be stopping people walking on the sidewalk and asking them to qualify or justify their reason for leaving their house," McGuire said in an interview with insauga.com.
"A couple walking their dog, or an individual walking along the sidewalk shouldn't expect to be stopped by police and questioned about what they're doing and where they're going--we don't have the authority to do that," he continued.
Police still do have the authority to intervene if they see a person or group of people in clear violation of the order.
"The only exception to this is if there's an obvious violation of the order. For instance, if there were 25 people walking on the sidewalk holding hands with no masks on, and a police officer saw that, they would probably stop and talk to them," McGuire said.
However, whether or not an officer issues a fine or chooses to caution the person violating the order is up to their discretion.
"If a police officer sees a group of people violating the order and, through a discussion with them, believes they didn't know they were doing so, he or she would likely explain what the rules are, have the people separate, caution them, and move on," McGuire said. "However, if there's a flagrant violation, such as an anti-masker, and the person refuses to comply and shows disregard for the rules, they're probably going to get fined."
Since the announcement of the new order, many have expressed confusion regarding the new rules, and fear that they could be fined for something they didn't even understand was a violation.
Moreover, McGuire reiterated that the police aren't out to issue fines out of spite--they're just trying to ensure we can all get through this crisis as quickly as possible.
"We as police officers don't take joy in responding to these types of calls, but we recognize that we have to do our part--we're here to help everyone get through this. This legislation exists for a reason, so we as police will do what we can to keep communities safe," he said.
Further, McGuire emphasized the need for individuals to retain their sense of freedom, even with many activities currently off-limits.
"We aren't going to be creating a police state to uphold the legislation. We will be out there educating and enforcing when necessary, and everything we're doing is in the interest of community safety," he said.
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