WELLINGTON COUNTY – Guelph Police officials say Guelph officers will not conduct random vehicle or person stops despite having newly-granted powers to do so.
However, it remains a little more unclear what the plan is for OPP officers in Wellington County – or across the province for that matter.
On April 16, as part of tighter COVID-19 restrictions, the province announced new powers for Ontario police and bylaw officers to enforce the latest measures and ensure there is no inter-provincial travel.
Police can now stop residents on the street or in their vehicles to ask why they are out and to provide their address.
A press release from OPP headquarters in Orillia, released later in the day on April 16, acknowledges police now have the authority to conduct random stops but it does not specify whether or not officers will be conducting them.
An April 16 OPP tweet states “OPP will be enforcing new measures” but it specifically mentions only “strict measures at provincial borders and limitations on outdoor recreational activity”. Another tweet notes police have “the ability” to conduct random stops but again does not specify what officers will do in practice.
By contrast, the April 16 release from Guelph police plainly states “it is not our intention to conduct random vehicle or person stops.”
OPP officials did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on their policy.
“The Guelph Police Service will review the new regulations once they are released by the government to determine the most appropriate response in situations where individuals refuse to comply with public health guidelines,” states the Guelph Police release.
It notes officials will “provide further updates impacting police response” going forward.
Guelph Police say “the vast majority in our community have taken COVID restrictions seriously” and officials “sincerely appreciate the community’s willingness and desire to work together.
“We will continue to work closely with our City of Guelph and Public Health partners as we work together support our community.”
The Guelph Police release did not offer any information on what residents should do if they observe non-compliance.
But the OPP has recommended non-emergency calls – “including allegations of non-compliance” – be directed to the local municipality, the OPP non-emergency number at 1-888-310-1122, or the local OPP detachment.
“Although voluntary compliance is always preferred … there are consequences for individuals who choose to defy the emergency orders that are in force,” states the OPP release.
“The OPP will be informing the public of charges laid each day on its social media accounts.”
The OPP is reminding residents that:
- failure to comply with restrictions can result in a minimum fine of $750;
- obstructing an authority or individual from enforcing or complying with an order can be fined $1,000; and
- hosting parties or gatherings in violation of the regulations can result in a maximum fine of $10,000 on conviction.
“The OPP continues to provide public safety services to the communities we serve and support the efforts of federal, provincial and local health authorities during this pandemic,” states the release.
“We appreciate the public’s ongoing support of these measures.”