NSW Police has called in hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel to police locked-down LGAs, because apparently having the army patrol the streets of western Sydney is exactly what we need right now.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said police are clamping down to “get us out of lockdown sooner” and made a formal request to the Federal Government for help from the Army. Specifically, he has asked for 300 ADF personnel.

“As I have said previously, support from the Army will add another line of defence to the NSW Government’s crackdown on COVID-19 compliance,” he said in a statement.

“The Army’s unique skills and training have combined many times with those of our police officers to serve the people of NSW in times of crisis, such as the floods and severe bushfires we’ve experienced in recent years.

“This will be a functional, effective and dynamic team to fight this pandemic,” he said.

Except, we can hardly compare the need for military in the bushfires and flooding to lockdown enforcement. With the former, the ADF was helping extinguish flames, evacuating people from their homes, saving children from burning rooftops, etc. In those instances, the enemy was the natural disaster they were fighting.

This time around, the target of their force is other people. The messaging is completely different. And the Army reinforcements aren’t fighting a virus, not really – they’re targeting people, and specially people from western Sydney, who are more likely to be marginalised either by class or race and already have a history of being overpoliced.

Yes, the COVID-19 situation is dire. Cases are the worst they’ve been since the start of the pandemic. We are definitely in a crisis, but it’s not police that are going to save us from this – it’s good policy, communication, compassion and support.

Most of the positive cases we are seeing right now are either coming from household contacts or essential workplaces. The key here is to create a financial support system to incentivise people to stay at home if they are working and feel unwell. Like when Victoria created COVID-19 relief payments for people who were waiting on test results.

Instead, we are seeing our state treat people in locked-down LGAs like they are criminals – when we should actually be thinking about their home life, financial situation, marginalised status and every other element that would impact people’s compliance to health orders, or even their ability to follow them. If there’s an influx of cases from workplaces, and people can’t afford to *not* work without risking being unable to pay for their living costs, then maybe the focus should be welfare and support. Not policing.

We’re already seeing a rise in dangerous anti-lockdown sentiment, and a lot of that sentiment has come from misinformation and confusing, inconsistent messaging from the government. But instead, let’s punish low-income migrant workers in the west, right?

I’m not the only one concerned about the way the pandemic is being handled with punitive force rather than compassion and support., with many slamming the involvement of the ADF in Western Sydney as demoralising.

Cumberland City Council mayor Steve Christou has also expressed concerns about how military in the streets will affect people in Western Sydney.

“I don’t think people are going to accept it very well – our people are one of the poorest demographics, and as it is, they already feel picked on and marginalised, as if their whole life has been taken away from them,” he told SBS.

“They can’t afford to pay the mortgage, the rent, the food or work. Now to throw out the army to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue to these people.

“It’s demoralising for a lot of people.”

I would even go as far as to say it’s demonising.

The ADF are expected to be deployed to the streets of the eight locked-down LGAs on 2 August, after a weekend of training with NSW Police.