'Horrible waste of time': Former councillor decries use of police resources for anonymous COVID-19 complaints
LONDON, ONT. -- A former London city councilllor is expressing concern that valuable police resources are being wasted on enforcement of the provincial emergency order brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cheryl Miller tells CTV News that she and her husband Paul were sitting down for coffee Saturday afternoon when they noticed police commotion outside. What could it be, wondered the long-time politician and full-time grandmother.
“The first thing I thought about is my kids, my grand-kids. ‘Is there an accident? Did somebody die?’ And they said ‘no, we’re here with a COVID complaint with a COVID party at this house.”
It turns out someone made an anonymous complaint to London Police that a so-called ‘COVID-party’ was taking place at the Miller home in contravention of the Emergency Order and the Reopening Ontario Act.
“That’s a horrible waste of time and talent,” exclaimed Miller.“ Two police officers come here. Not a car on the street. My car in the driveway. There’s no action. There’s nothing. And yet they have to come to the door to say there was a complaint about a party which didn’t happen.”
She said the officers came inside and looked around. When they confirmed the couple in their seventies was not in fact holding an unlawful COVID party they went on their way.
London police say such investigations are generally complaint driven, so when they do get tipped off that someone is having a COVID party, it’s routine practice to follow up.
Police declined an interview request, and instead pointed to a video message posted by Chief Steve Williams earlier this month.
“Our focus is on public safety,” said Chief Williams in the video. “The ‘stay-at-home’ order was put in place to ensure that members of the community do not put others in danger. To that end, we will continue to respond to complaints in relation to contraventions of the orders, in the same manner that we did before the second ‘State of Emergency’ was declared.”
Western University law professor Sam Trosow said the incident suggests the rules around COVID enforcement are vague.
“I think if they get up to the door and don’t hear anything. There aren’t a lot of cars accumulating on the street. You don’t want them knocking on doors if there’s no evidence of anything going on, unless they have reason to believe that there’s some danger in there. And I think there’s a problem in terms of vagueness, in terms of what these orders are, and I think the province should have thought this out a little bit more.”
Trosow said he hopes the London Police Services Board will consider the concerns around police enforcement of pandemic rules and protocols.
As for the Millers, afternoon coffee may never be quite the same.
“It really bothers me because we’re going to pay for it,” said a frustrated Miller. “We’re going to pay for those anonymous calls to come and investigate two old people sitting having coffee.”