The Toronto Police Service (TPS) is taking a new approach to enforcing Ontario’s Stay-at-Home order.
Beginning at 5 pm on April 22, the service will launch 16 dedicated COVID-19 enforcement teams to respond to large indoor and outdoor gatherings throughout the city.
Although each TPS division across Toronto will have a team, they will be coordinated from one command centre so they can be “deployed across divisional boundaries” if need be.
“Our divisional teams will focus on large gatherings that fail to comply with the emergency orders, with a particular focus on indoor gatherings such as parties at short-term rentals or bars and restaurants,” said Staff Superintendent Randy Carter.
“Everyone must do their part to protect our health and safety, and for police, that means continuing to enforce equitably and effectively.”
TPS clarified that there is no change to police powers and that officers will not be conducting random stops of people or cars.
Individuals will not have to explain why they are not at home, and workers will not be required to have proof from their employer that they are travelling to or from work.
Being outside is not evidence that someone is not complying with the emergency orders, police noted.
The enforcement teams will also not be targeting vulnerable people in encampments or those experiencing homelessness.
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Police reminded the public that “no element of any order” gives them the power to enter 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 to investigate a complaint of a loud party.
If an officer has reason to suspect that someone is participating in a large gathering, they can ask the person to identify themselves to issue a ticket or summons.
If the person refuses, they can be arrested and may be charged with obstructing a police officer.
“We are at a critical stage of this pandemic. COVID-19 is now a matter of public health and public safety,” said TPS Chief James Ramer said.
“Please comply with the Stay-at-Home order. Let’s work together to stop the rapid growth in cases and relieve the pressure on our health care system.”
To date, Toronto has seen 136,833 COVID-19 cases and 2,970 virus-related deaths.