A drive to the beach? Don't even think about it, warns top cop

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Mar 2020, 2:12PM
Police commissioner Mike Bush at a Covid 19 briefing in Wellington. Photo / Herald file

A drive to the beach? Don't even think about it, warns top cop

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Mar 2020, 2:12PM

Don't even think about driving to the beach or a park for some fresh air once the lockdown starts. That's the message from police commissioner Mike Bush, who told NewstalkZB host Chris Lynch that people should only go out in their cars to get essential supplies.

"What happens if somebody wants to go for a drive, say to a local beach or get out and about to a local park?" Lynch asked. "Are they in a position to drive there?"

"There's a short answer to that - no they're not," replied Bush. "You only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential food supplies, essential medical supplies or medical treatment. Otherwise, please stay at home."

Bush also discussed how police would enforce the restrictions, whether the army would be called in and how police would respond to a likely rise in domestic violence. Here's the full interview.

A nationwide lockdown is in force as of midnight Wednesday. What does that mean for people at home?

At the highest level, everyone apart from essential services needs to stay at home. Staying home saves lives.

If people decide to get in their vehicles and go for a drive aimlessly, what will happen to them if they're caught by the police?

If people don't fit into any of the prescribed categories of why you're allowed to be out there, we'll be out there, we'll be highly visible. We'll be stopping people, we'll be having a chat to find out whether they're compliant. The first part of that is we'll be really educating people and encouraging them to comply. If people don't comply then we'll be using the authority that we have, either under our own legislation or under other law, to ensure people do comply. We don't want to be out there with a big stick. That's not our normal approach. But if people don't comply, that's where we've got to go, because - and I can't say this often enough - complying with this will save lives.

Indeed. I was listening to a microbiologist this morning. This is serious stuff, we are at war with the virus and as he said, the foot soldiers are the general public. How will you look to enforce this? Will you have more police on the ground?

That's a very good question. We've been challenging ourselves on that very point for the past week or two. The way we see this, Covid-19 response for the entire public service, including the police in terms of compliance, is our top priority. At the same time, we have to deal with other matters, whether it's family violence or other serious violence out there in the community. We'll be doing both but you will see more of us. We are tasking all of our staff to be out there and more visible to ensure that people do comply. We'll do that in a really calm and compassionate way, we'll be professional as we always are, we'll be very caring about people but at the end of the day if people aren't smart enough to comply we'll be intervening.

How will the military play a part in all of this?

Well, I hope they'll never have to play a part but they are standing by. The chief of Defence and I are in very close contact as you'd expect. If they need to complement staff in our communities they will. They operate like we do. We really want to encourage and educate as a first step.

What type of crimes do you expect the police will be dealing with? Have you forecast that?

Yes, we have. There are some crimes that will increase and other crimes that will decrease. Obviously, with the closing of a lot of social areas, there will be less demand on police services. We commit a lot of our resources between midnight and 3am into hospitality areas. With this we won't need to, so we'll revisit our deployment model to make sure that our staff are more visible, probably during daylight hours. We'll be around supermarkets and other places to keep order to ensure that people are safe and people are respecting each other's space.

Is there a worry about domestic violence? We have appalling rates of domestic violence in this country and I wonder whether people with cabin fever might go slightly nuts over this?

Yes, we've been studying what's been happening overseas and that's a real issue. When people are confined to those spaces, human nature being what it is and there are people who already have a tendency in that direction ... so yes, we anticipate there will be an increase, so we need to increase our response, we need to increase our prevention and there are other agencies that we really want to keep as essential services, so we can support people who are in the middle of that.

Guarding is not something we do, but we'll be highly visible. There may be other resources available to act as guards. I know a lot of the public service are closing their doors and their guards will be available, so we can move that other workforce around to help us do this stuff.

You've been looking at other countries during the lockdown. Can you give us an insight into what police have been looking at and what could be implemented?

We keep a close eye on our Australian colleagues. I'm part of a network with the eight Australian commissioners. We've been talking weekly about what we stop doing and what we have to do more of. We have to take a different approach to road breath testing, but we're still out there keeping our roads safe.

What's the main message that you want to say to the New Zealand public as we move towards a nationwide lockdown?

Be kind, stay home, save lives.

 

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