'Double standard in plain sight': COVID-19 police operation in south west Sydney draws criticism

More than 100 extra police officers will patrol south western Sydney from Friday to crack down on those not following COVID-19 restrictions.

A NSW Police officer wears a face mask whilst in the CBD of Sydney, Thursday, 8 July, 2021

A NSW Police officer wears a face mask whilst in the CBD of Sydney, Thursday, 8 July, 2021 Source: AAP

A dedicated police operation in south western Sydney will see at least 100 more officers deployed to the area to ensure compliance with COVID-19 rules.

The operation will begin at 7am on Friday and bring in mounted police, traffic patrol, transport and safety officers, and staff from other specialist areas in a "very visible presence", Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon announced on Thursday afternoon.

"Clearly we are still having members of the community not comply (with public health orders)," he said.

"We have worked very hard with members of the community and will continue to do so but now is the time to make sure that we stop this virus."

The Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool local government areas have seen high rates of COVID-19 transmission in recent days, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian warning the region could be subject to elevated restrictions.

Police will be asking people who are outside their homes what their reasonable excuse is, and will be cracking down on activities like unnecessary shopping.

"You don't need that pair of shoes today," said local commander Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke.

A 'double standard'

South western Sydney is home to many of the city's multicultural communities, and some critics have described the police operation as a double standard compared to actions taken elsewhere in Sydney. 

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said the operation is  a "terrible turn of events". 

"Over-policing of multicultural communities is a recipe for disaster. The mounted police were never called into Avalon or Westfield Bondi," she said on Twitter. 

"The double standard is there in plain sight." 

Racial justice organisation Democracy in Colour decried the decision, describing the operation as "thinly veiled racism".

"This isn't a public health response, it's explicitly targeting people of colour and working class communities in the western suburbs," National Director Neha Madhok said. 

"Inner city suburbs and the Northern Beaches have had significant cases but they have not been harshly policed like this."

But Fairfield Deputy Mayor Paul Azzo told AAP the proposed crackdown was a small price to pay if it could slow down the spread of the virus.

"The fact that the proposed response was not adopted for earlier outbreaks in eastern Sydney and the northern beaches does not faze me," Mr Azzo said.

"I see the proposed police response as a positive for South Western Sydney and I congratulate the premier for taking a special interest in the residents of Fairfield."

Lakemba MP, Labor's Jihad Dib, told the ABC he didn't think issuing more fines would necessarily be the right approach.

"I don't think strong-arming is the way to go. What we need to do is to make sure people are being compliant, but people will be compliant when you give them reasons why they need to be and make it clear," he said.

"If everything is always the stick, I don't necessarily know if that will always be the solution. What it could do is create a sense of angst and a sense of isolation. Remember, if we're all in this together, we're all in it together. Not one group separate to the other."

Assistant Commissioner Cooke said he had been in constant contact with community leaders and would meet with them again on Thursday afternoon.

"Our multicultural liaison officers have been deployed for weeks now across the community, sending the message, we have paraphernalia in 56 languages distributed to communities," he said.

"This is about us working together to comply with these orders ... When we do not get the compliance we will enforce." 

Deputy Commissioner Lanyon on Thursday denied the operation was discriminatory.

"The virus has shown very clearly that it doesn't discriminate and nor does the NSW Police," he said.

"That is why we are targeting the south west metropolitan area as of tomorrow, as we have done where other areas of concern have been identified."

4 min read
Published 8 July 2021 at 5:30pm
Source: AAP,SBS