Cops spat on enforcing social distancing

Police around the country have seen a disturbing rise in incidents of members of the public spitting on officers enforcing social distancing rules.

On Monday a 29-year-old man was charged after headbutting and spitting on an officer who was assisting lifeguards to enforce the closure of Maroubra Beach in Sydney's east.

In Adelaide last week, a 31-year-old man was charged with assault for spitting in a female officer's face while being arrested after police pursuit.

And on Friday afternoon, a 25-year-old woman was filmed in a dramatic arrest coughing and spitting on an officer in Western Sydney, after claiming she was speeding because she was on her way to get tested for coronavirus.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller described the incidents as "beyond belief".

"From our perspective there are two things at hand - one is business as usual, there are still calls for service, there are still crimes happening and people who need police," he told Nine's Today.

"And then of course there is the coronavirus and there is the criminal behaviour around that. Whether that's a theft of toilet paper or a poor kid stacking a shelf in a supermarket being assaulted right up to our law enforcement officers and nurses being spat on by people, which, you know, it's just beyond belief to be honest with you."

Mr Fuller said some members of the public still were not getting the message but stressed NSW Police were trying not to be too heavy-handed.

Under tough new emergency powers that came into effect at midnight on Monday, people who leave their house without a "reasonable excuse" can be fined up to $11,000 and face up to six months in jail.

Gym goers are issued a warning for training at an outdoor gym at Greenhills Cronulla Beach after bans came into effect due to coronavirus. Picture: Sione Chown/Matrix Pictures
Gym goers are issued a warning for training at an outdoor gym at Greenhills Cronulla Beach after bans came into effect due to coronavirus. Picture: Sione Chown/Matrix Pictures



Mr Fuller said in a statement this morning that no infringements had been issued under the new powers but that "if people continue to flout the rules and ignore the message, then tickets will be issued".

The 16 "reasonable excuses" include exercising, working or obtaining essential supplies. In other words, you can be outside if you're going for a run but you can't sit on a park bench and enjoy the sun.

Photos this morning showed officers moving on a man with his shirt off from a Sydney park. Today host Allison Langdon said the images "may have jarred with some people".

"Can you be absolute now and tell people what they can't be doing in public so we get it? We can exercise, but what can't we do?" she asked.

Mr Fuller replied, "I guess from an issuing a ticket perspective, if he was back today sun baking not exercising, then I think he deserves a ticket."

NSW's top cop, who yesterday insisted "we're not a police state", said Australians "need to reshape in our minds, this is really hard because we are used to going to the park and sitting on a bench, used to going to the coffee shop, sitting down to have the coffee".

"The reality is, if you go out to exercise, go do the exercise then go home. If you go past a coffee shop you want to get a take away coffee, get the coffee and go. Don't sit down and drink it," he said.

"But you can leave the house if you need to work, if you need to go to the doctors or the chemist, if you need to go get food, if you need fuel for the car, if there is something to do with child minding. There are a lot of things you can leave for, but sun baking in the park is not one of them. Going down in big groups to the beach is not one of them."

He added, "This is not forever, these powers aren't forever. Can I tell you, the police and Police Commissioner will be the happiest when this is over and those powers are turned off."

Originally published as Cops spat on enforcing social distancing