When the police are used as the face and muscle of pandemic restrictions enforcement, the police-community relationship is placed a risk. Relative to policing, even vocal critics of the police speak of “police legitimacy.” Jonathan Blanks is an ardent police reform advocate. While Blanks seems to lay the burden of maintaining legitimacy on the police alone, he has identified legitimacy as the “most valuable” police department resource. When severe Covid restrictions are viewed by a substantial portion of the community as violating the rights of free citizens, community assessments of police legitimacy are diminished. With a damaged police-community relationship, and weakened assessments of legitimacy, overall public safety is placed in jeopardy. Here we present a “Quick Read” and video update regarding pandemic restrictions enforcement in Australia.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
We have seen during the pandemic a new layer of challenges for our police officers. If you have not read our post, “Pandemic Restrictions Enforcement and Police-Community Relations,” we encourage you to do so. When pandemic restrictions are viewed as being illegitimate, anger over the restrictions can quickly transfer over to the police. Such is true even when it is only a sizable minority of the community opposing the restrictions.
Continued Tensions in Australia
As indicated in our earlier post, there are international lessons that officials here in the United States should heed. Since our post on 25 August 2021, community tensions with the police in Australia over pandemic restrictions enforcement have continued.
ABC.Net Australia reported on protests on 21 and 22 September 2021 in Melbourne. Thousands protested continued Covid-19 lockdowns and vaccine passports. Enforcement actions by the police continued to generate public resistance, which turned into clashes between the protesters and police. Police made more than 200 arrests. ABC.net quoted one protester as saying: “Why have we not opened the narrative for other ways. We are the most locked-down city in the entire world.”
News reports also noted that the Australian government declared Melbourne’s central business district a “no-fly” zone. This action occurred so as to prevent news helicopters from recording the Melbourne protests from the air.
Video Updates of Australian Police and Pandemic Restrictions Enforcement
But as police around the world have experienced, ground-level video from journalists and private individuals are now the norm. Below are six videos from recent days featuring Australian police, as they engaged in controversial pandemic restrictions enforcement efforts. The videos show:
- Mass demonstrations and riot responses involving the police.
- A heavily-armed police response and two arrests for vaccine passport violations on a business street.
- The arrest of a woman, with her small child for a lockdown protest violation.
- Arrests for mourners visiting a graveyard during the lockdown.
- Police doing house-to-house interviews of Australians relative to their participation in or support of lock-down and vaccine passport protests.
- The choking by police of a woman for a face mask violation.
The above videos are just six from a growing number of concerning encounters in Australia. Without question, the encounters depicted pose significant risks to the Australian police-community relationship.
Lessons for American Officials
This is the key lesson Secure 1776 hopes that our nation’s leaders heed from Australia. As noted in our post, “Truth and Consequences, 2020 Murders,” violence in the United States began to surge last year. The historic increase in the annual murder rate can be tied directly to a weakened police-community relationship here. America needs to strengthen its responses to violence. Improved public safety requires strengthened support for the police from the larger community. Pandemic response strategies do not operate in isolation. Efforts that create further divisions between the police and community would be ill-advised.
As our nation’s elected leaders and public officials continue to respond to the pandemic, Secure 1776 reminds them to choose wisely. Severe restrictions, which place the police in the forefront of enforcement efforts, pose a significant risk to overall public safety.
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