Marvin Dames, Minister of National Security.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames said police will not enforce Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ emergency COVID-19 orders in an intimidating way, emphasising the point is to save lives, not punish people.
“It’s not that we want to put the police out there to arrest everyone,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “That’s not the objective. Police are not out there to intimidate you or talk down to you. Will it happen? Maybe it will from time to time and we will deal with that, but they’re there to advise you, to tell you you’re in contravention of this, you shouldn’t be doing this. It might be a little inconvenient but they want to know people are keeping safe.”
He spoke to The Tribune after Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson said people uncertain about whether they will be given road access to access essential services under the 24-hour curfew should call 311.
“Call 311 for any query one has,” Commissioner Ferguson told this newspaper. “311 will give you an understanding of what you will be allowed to do and give you better access to what you are actually requesting. Officers on the checkpoints are really there for enforcement purposes. They will listen and have some discretion but the info should be channeled from the command centre to the various checkpoints. If there are really necessities for you to leave home, you should dial the 311 with the information about your location and where you are travelling. Once you get to the checkpoint, present a proper ID and the officers will say we got this information concerning you. There will be cases, emergencies, serious illnesses, where you cannot call 311 beforehand and the officers will deal with those situations accordingly.”
It is not mandatory that residents call 311, but Mr Dames said it would be proactive to do so.
“Unless you have an extreme emergency,” he said, “if you know about these things ahead of time that you want to do, it’s important to be proactive to make sure the commissioner and his team are aware and they will guide you accordingly and in line with the emergency orders. That makes it easier too because if you do that, then if you’re stopped because you will be stopped somehow, they will be very much on the alert.”
Mr Dames said police will face limits enforcing Dr Minnis’ order.
“If you decide to have 50 people in your house, that’s difficult for officers to police,” he said. “The success depends on each and every one of us and how serious we are about this pandemic and our willingness to follow the rules.
“People get the message. We could put police all in the streets but that shouldn’t be the answer. What this speaks to now is how responsible we want to be, how considerate we are about ourselves and the people around us, understanding that this here is no play, we see people dying every day around the world, we can’t afford to risk that,” Mr Dames said.
Commissioner Ferguson, nonetheless, said officers may not be tolerant of requests to visit fast food restaurants. “By now,” he said, “from the time the prime minister made the announcement, people should have food in their house. You shouldn’t wake up (at) 10am and say ‘I feel like eating Wendy’s.’ Police is very unlikely to give you that consent just to go to Wendy’s. Everybody should practice familial norms and be cooking.”
Supermarket requests “are different” he said. “We may find you have a legitimate reason to go to the supermarkets. People have special diets and you may run out of food so that is very necessary.
“But the point is we want people to obey the orders. Stay inside on your premises and obey the safe distancing and avoid interacting with too many people, that is key. The more we understand that as a people and allow the health professionals to do their thing to monitor this, the better,” the police chief said.
Among the essential purposes for which people can move around during the curfew are banking, groceries, refueling, washing clothes, doctor visits and outdoor exercises.