Toronto police say they will start a fresh approach to enforcing Ontario’s stay-at-home order beginning on Thursday.
As per police, the service will introduce a dedicated implementation team in all 16 divisions whose
“primary function will be to respond to large gatherings in both indoor and outdoor settings.”
The divisional teams will be coordinated from a central command, according to police, which will allow officers deployed across divisional boundaries if needed.
Police officers said they will focus on large gatherings that fail to obey the emergency orders, with a
“particular focus on indoor gatherings such as parties at short-term rentals or at bars and restaurants.”
The new enforcement teams will commence at 5 p.m. on April 22.
“We are at a critical stage of this pandemic,” Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said in a statement Wednesday. “COVID-19 is now a matter of public health and public safety. The Toronto Police Service will enforce the provincial orders and will work with the city’s bylaw officers and Toronto Public Health to enforce the measures that will help slow the rapid spread of COVID-19 that is putting public safety at risk.”
What to expect from police officers?
The authorities insisted that they will not be carrying out random stops of persons or cars and there are no changes to their powers.
“Individuals are not compelled to explain why they are out of their residence, nor is being outside evidence of a failure to comply with the emergency order,” police said.
Officers additionally said that workers are not required to have proof from their employer that they are going to or from their place of work.
Enforcement measures will not apply to vulnerable persons in encampments or those experiencing homelessness, police added.
They also said that they will go into a home for the sole purpose of checking compliance with the stay-at-home order.
“However, officers can enter a property if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe there is non-compliance, such as when investigating a complaint of a loud party. Officers may exercise their discretion in every situation and where there is evidence of non-compliance, they will issue tickets and summonses for individuals and businesses.”
Police said if an individual declines to identify themselves so as to issue a ticket or summons, they can be arrested and in some instances charged with obstructing a police officer.
The province’s stay-at-home order, which legally only allows persons to leave their home for an essential purpose, remains in effect till at least May 20.
This past week, Premier Doug Ford’s administration said police officers would be given special powers to stop persons and ask why they are out during the stay-at-home order.
A day later, Ford retracted this decision after it caused fast and furious backlash.
Pundits and civil libertarians said the special police powers aimed at implementing stay-at-home orders were too much.