By Jensen, Randy on March 28, 2020.
The Lethbridge Police Service is preparing to enforce public health orders pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak for those who refuse to follow provincial and municipal safety protocols.
“As mentioned by the premier on Wednesday, he is enhancing police authorities as well as community peace officer authorities to enforce the Public Health Act, and breaches of certain public health orders,” confirmed LPS Insp. Jason Walper on Friday. “We are working with our provincial partners right now to see what exactly our enforcement strategies will look like.”
“There is still a little work to be done as far as before we can roll out and go. We are working on that daily, and hopefully over the next couple of days we’ll have our enforcement strategy in place.”
Heavy fines of between $1,000 to up to potentially $500,000, depending on the severity of the offence, could be levied by the courts, and even jail terms could be handed out, for those in violation of public health protocols such as refusing to remain 14 days in self-quarantine as ordered after returning from abroad, or refusing to comply with a 14-day self-quarantine order if told to do by AHS after being exposed to someone with the coronavirus, or for those holding a gathering of over 15 people.
“I think the biggest takeaway from that is we don’t want to have to do that,” said Walper. “We are urging our community to listen to the public health orders, listen to what’s being directed from our local municipality, stay home, self-isolate, do what you’re being asked by the province; so we don’t have to step in and enforce those fines that are now increasing.”
Walper said the LPS was experiencing some staffing shortages due to members staying at home in self-isolation after potentially being exposed to the virus, but overall staffing levels remain adequate.
Walper confirmed the The Watch program has also been drastically scaled back for as long as the pandemic lasts, with only paid Watch leaders still on patrol as all volunteers have been asked to remain at home.
Walper said so far the community has responded marvelously to the crisis, and has maintained good public order overall despite the challenges they have been facing in recent weeks.
“I am happy to say we have seen a decrease in our calls for service,” he confirmed. “Our first responders are seeing a decrease in priority-type calls in the community, which is good. I hope that continues, and it shows us that people are listening to the directions of the government and the municipalities.”
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