Windsor police say officers won't be stopping people, cars to enforce COVID-19 rules

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After being "overwhelmed" with 911 calls on the latest pandemic restrictions, Windsor police have provided more information about how they will enforce the rules.

The police service said officers won't enter homes, stop cars or people for the sole purpose of enforcing the stay-at-home order and provincial emergency.

Further, no one is required to carry proof that they are going to work, the police service said in a statement Friday.

If an officer has "reasonable grounds" to think that someone has violated the Reopening Ontario Act or the emergency declaration, officers can ask for ID in order to issue a fine or summons.

Failing to properly identify yourself can lead to a fine or obstruction charges.

"We will continue to monitor for COVID-19 compliance and respond to COVID-19-related complaints, as required. We will undertake enforcement actions, as necessary, under the legislation," the police service stated.

New order sparks questions, criticism

Under the stay-at-home order that took effect last Thursday, people can only leave their homes for essential reasons. There is a long list of exceptions, including going out for exercise or essential work, buying groceries and picking up prescriptions.

Under the new order, officers can order people attending gatherings to go home, close any building where they believe an illegal event is taking place, and ask for the name and address of anyone they think is committing an offence.

Charges can be laid through a ticket or summons to appear in court. The minimum fine for violating provincial gathering rules is $750. For those organizing illegal gatherings, there's a minimum fine of $10,000 and up to a year in jail.

Within Windsor and across the province, the new rules have led to questions about how law enforcement will be ensuring compliance.

They've also prompted concerns that people from visible minority groups could be disproportionately targeted by enforcement efforts.

Police see uptick in 911 calls

Windsor police have asked the public not to call 911 regarding the stay-at-home order, saying operators have been "overwhelmed" with calls.

On Friday, the police service said it had received 200 non-emergency and 911 calls related to COVID-19 and the new order since Tuesday.

"Any call to 911 that is not an emergency can take precious seconds away from a person trying to get through on 911 for a true emergency, where seconds may count for them," police said in an emailed statement.