Police chief says compliance is the goal, but arrests possible if COVID-19 orders disobeyed
Police cadets will review forms submitted by members of the public
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Joe Boland says the role of his police force during the COVID-19 outbreak is to educate — but warned arrests are possible if they're warranted.
The Department of Health and Community Services called on the RNC's help after launching forms to report members of the community who are believed to be defying self-isolation rules.
"The goal here is to reach out to people who we feel may be a bit lax in relation to abiding by the order, and making them aware of what their obligation and responsibly is in relation to the order," Boland said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Twelve members of the RNC cadet program, which was suspended due to the virus, have taken up the task. They are being supervised by a sergeant.
As of 4:30 p.m. NT, the RNC had 458 reports — 102 of which are duplicates.
"Those are ones that certainly are of interest to us, if there are multiple reports," he said.
Boland said the RNC hope they will only need to educate the public to ensure they comply, but there are penalties in place if people continue to defy the order.
"We will work with the community as long as the community is working with us," Boland said.
"If persons are bent on disobeying these orders and they're putting this community at risk, or the people on the front lines trying to fight this virus, we will enforce the law."
Don't call police, use the form
The RNC was called to the Dominion grocery store in Conception Bay South on Monday due to concerns over a person or people not self-isolating.
Boland said the proper course of action is for the public to fill out the reporting form on the Health Department's website, and not to call police directly.
"There is a lot of fear and misinformation," Boland said.
"Our goal is to reach out to the person and explain to them the risk they present to the community, that we're keeping an eye on them, and if they continue that behaviour then we will investigate and arrest."
Boland said the people who have been contacted by the RNC did not seem aware of the order and the seriousness of the pandemic.
Health Minister John Haggie told reporters Tuesday that a meeting will be held between the Department of Health, the RNC and the RCMP on how to handle the requests.
"We don't want to use this," Haggie said.
"This is not who we are. As the premier said, the opportunity to flatten this curve, the opportunity to make a difference to ourselves, our families and our communities, is now. The time is now."