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Is policing pandemics different than maintaining law and order?

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Bobby Ramakant - CNS

Policing during humanitarian crises is different than policing required to maintain law and order
Policing during humanitarian crises is different than policing required to maintain law and order
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Among the first responders in times of emergencies or crises is often expected to be the police. This was no different when Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt. The public health emergency arising due to the pandemic, as well as cascading humanitarian crises in several countries and communities, only made the job of the police even more challenging.

We often hear the public health viewpoints of frontline workers but seldom does one get to hear the perspectives of the police. In an important session hosted by the Global Law Enforcement and Public Health Association (GLEPHA), voices of senior police officers from a few South Asian nations, as well as experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), helped put the spotlight on pandemic policing.

no simple solution to pandemic policing

A part of the solution may lie in effective intersectoral approaches that bring together different partners who are united for a shared cause. Not just Professor Nick Crofts, Executive Director of GLEPHA, shared similar opening insights but this message also came from other panelists later in the session.

Mukta Sharma of the WHO South-East Asian Regional Office said that the South Asian region was heavily hit by the pandemic. Out of the 110 million cases of Covid-19 in the world, over 12 million occurred in the South Asian region so far (541,000 Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh; 10.9 million in India; 273,000 in Nepal; 566,000 in Pakistan; and 77,184 in Sri Lanka).

The pandemic has highlighted that police are an integral and critical part of the public health workforce, and we cannot achieve the public health goals of community safety and well-being without active engagement of police as full public health partners.

Sharma added that the police played a range of roles in the pandemic response- from enforcement of the lockdown to supporting funerals of those who had died due to Covid-19 but their bodies were left unclaimed.

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