Police Commissioner Mike Bush says his staff have encountered people who say "they are not even aware" of New Zealand's lockdown status.
He assured Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning they had made the comments with a straight face.
But he was sure most New Zealanders would obey the rules.
When asked how police would enforce the rules and make sure those out and about were out for a good reason, he said police officers may follow you.
"If they've got a good reason - if they're an essential worker or if they're going to the supermarket or if they're going to get food or health supplies - that's fine.
"If not, stay at home. That's how you're going to save lives."
'WE MAY HAVE A DRIVE ... TO SEE WHERE YOU'RE GOING'
He said officers would have a fair idea of whether or not someone was going to the supermarket.
"We may even have a little drive with you to see where you're going."
Bush said their own workforce were being very strict about keeping up with hygiene practices.
Asked whether retired police officers may be recruited during this time, he said: "We're planning not to get to that stage, but we do have a few plans in stage."
Bush had a low key warning for people who if they did not stick to the rules: There would be consequences.
"We'll be the friendly face of police ... until it needs to be something else, of course, if people don't comply."
He had earlier told Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch that people shouldn't drive to the beach or a park for some fresh air once the lockdown starts.
He said people should only go out in their cars to get essential supplies.
LISTEN LIVE TO NEWSTALK ZB'S CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
In the interview with Lynch, Bush answered some common questions.
A nationwide lockdown is in force. What does that mean for people at home?
At the highest level, everyone apart from essential services needs to stay at home. Staying home saves lives.
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What happens if somebody wants to go for a drive, say to a local beach or get out and about to a local park?
There's a short answer to that - no they're not. You only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential food supplies, essential medical supplies or medical treatment. Otherwise, please stay at home.
If people decide to get in their vehicles and go for a drive aimlessly, what will happen to them if they're caught by the police?
If people don't fit into any of the prescribed categories of why you're allowed to be out there, we'll be out there, we'll be highly visible. We'll be stopping people, we'll be having a chat to find out whether they're compliant. The first part of that is we'll be really educating people and encouraging them to comply. If people don't comply then we'll be using the authority that we have, either under our own legislation or under other law, to ensure people do comply. We don't want to be out there with a big stick. That's not our normal approach. But if people don't comply, that's where we've got to go, because - and I can't say this often enough - complying with this will save lives.
Indeed. I was listening to a microbiologist this morning. This is serious stuff, we are at war with the virus and as he said, the foot soldiers are the general public. How will you look to enforce this? Will you have more police on the ground?
That's a very good question. We've been challenging ourselves on that very point for the past week or two. The way we see this, Covid-19 response for the entire public service, including the police in terms of compliance, is our top priority. At the same time, we have to deal with other matters, whether it's family violence or other serious violence out there in the community. We'll be doing both but you will see more of us. We are tasking all of our staff to be out there and more visible to ensure that people do comply. We'll do that in a really calm and compassionate way, we'll be professional as we always are, we'll be very caring about people but at the end of the day if people aren't smart enough to comply we'll be intervening.
How will the military play a part in all of this?
Well, I hope they'll never have to play a part but they are standing by. The Chief of Defence and I are in very close contact as you'd expect. If they need to complement staff in our communities they will. They operate like we do. We really want to encourage and educate as a first step.
What type of crimes do you expect the police will be dealing with? Have you forecast that?
Yes, we have. There are some crimes that will increase and other crimes that will decrease. Obviously, with the closing of a lot of social areas, there will be less demand on police services. We commit a lot of our resources between midnight and 3am into hospitality areas. With this we won't need to, so we'll revisit our deployment model to make sure that our staff are more visible, probably during daylight hours. We'll be around supermarkets and other places to keep order to ensure that people are safe and people are respecting each other's space.
Is there a worry about domestic violence? We have appalling rates of domestic violence in this country and I wonder whether people with cabin fever might go slightly nuts over this?
Yes, we've been studying what's been happening overseas and that's a real issue. When people are confined to those spaces, human nature being what it is and there are people who already have a tendency in that direction ... so yes, we anticipate there will be an increase, so we need to increase our response, we need to increase our prevention and there are other agencies that we really want to keep as essential services, so we can support people who are in the middle of that.
• Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website.
Do you anticipate police having to be used to guard supermarkets and other essential services?
Guarding is not something we do, but we'll be highly visible. There may be other resources available to act as guards. I know a lot of the public service are closing their doors and their guards will be available, so we can move that other workforce around to help us do this stuff.
You've been looking at other countries during the lockdown. Can you give us an insight into what police have been looking at and what could be implemented?
We keep a close eye on our Australian colleagues. I'm part of a network with the eight Australian commissioners. We've been talking weekly about what we stop doing and what we have to do more of. We have to take a different approach to road breath testing, but we're still out there keeping our roads safe.
What's the main message that you want to say to the New Zealand public as we move towards a nationwide lockdown?
Be kind, stay home, save lives.