GCI held the ‘Policing the COVID-19 Pandemic’ online event on 9 September 2020 as part of Social Sciences Week Australia 2020. A recording of the event and a copy of the presentation slides can be viewed below. A copy of the technical report, which formed the basis for this presentation, can be found here.

On 11 March, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) a global pandemic. To date, over 25,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Australia, and more than 550 people have died from the virus. A priority amongst governments worldwide is limiting the spread of the virus. In Australia, this response has included urging citizens to practice social distancing and instituting mandatory lockdowns which limit citizens’ freedom of movement. Police, as enforcers of COVID-19 restrictions, play an important role in ensuring members of the public comply with the restrictions.

In this presentation we will talk about our COVID-19 research. Our research focuses on Australians’ perceptions of authority during the pandemic; specifically, the government’s handling of the pandemic response, as well as the way police have enforced the COVID-19 restrictions. As part of the research we collected survey data from 1,595 Australians in all states and territories during the initial nationwide lockdown in April. Our presentation focuses on predictors of public compliance with the COVID-19 restrictions during lockdown. It also examines the role of police and policing in enforcing COVID-19 restrictions. 

Our research demonstrates the value that social science offers for understanding people’s behaviour during the pandemic. Until a vaccine is found, our success in keeping COVID-19 cases at manageable levels in Australia depends on an appreciation of the psychological factors driving human behaviour. 

About the presenters

Kristina Murphy is a Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow. Elise Sargeant is a Senior Lecturer and Molly McCarthy is a Griffith University Postdoctoral Fellow. All three presenters are policing scholars with interests in policing, compliance, and human behaviour. All are based at the Griffith Criminology Institute at Griffith University.

View presentation slides here.