Durham Police board told vaxx rates up to 95 per cent but unvaxxed employees ring up $20K in testing costs

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Published February 18, 2022 at 12:39 pm

Oshawa Police Station

Durham Regional Police are reporting 95 per cent of their staff, both uniformed and civilian, are fully vaccinated, showing a steep rise vaccine uptake since the last update.

Members who remain unvaccinated have accrued more than $20,000 in testing costs since the requirement for them to test every 72 hours or risk an unpaid leave came into effect on January 7.

DRPS’s introduced their three-phase inoculation policy in November. Firstly, they required officers and civilian members to disclose their vaccination status by November 15.

Nearly a quarter of their members did not disclose their status by this deadline. Of those that did, 76 per cent were fully vaccinated, below the general population rate at the time of 84 per cent, leading to concern from board member Kevin Ashe.

The service then entered a second phase of “vaccine support”, engaging officers who were unvaccinated and encouraging them to get it. Members were not required to be vaccinated, but if they still refused by January 7 would have to submit to regular testing at their expense or be declared unfit for duty.

This strategy led Durham Regional Council to question the policy as a double standard compared to other Regional employees who are required to be vaccinated.

However, Interim Chief Todd Rollauer stressed the service’s organizational independence, and said the policy was on par with other police services.

For comparison, York police have a similar policy to DRPS. Conversely, Toronto police placed unvaccinated employees on indefinite leave in November.

Vaccination rates in DRPS rose quickly through this period leading to the 95 per cent rate in the service, which is now above the general population (ages 12 or older) level of 86.7 per cent.

“Wonderful to see,” said Vice-Chair Gary Cubitt, “That’s terrific that they’ve joined every member of the board and thousands  and thousands of members of the public who have done their very best to stay well.”

While the submitted report said 94 per cent of members were vaccinated, Rollauer updated the number to 95 per cent in his address to the police board, saying, “We’re slowly moving that benchmark forward.”

“Obviously we do have members choosing not to be immunized,” Rollauer said. Out of Durham police’s 1239 members, 73 are required to provide rapid antigen tests, resulting in 457 submitted results.

Per the DRPS report, the strategy has ensured there was “no impact to operations due to absences” from members providing rapid tests.

Inspector Glenn Courneyea said unvaccinated employees have to go to “community partners,” such as Shoppers Drug Mart to get the tests done and submit a form indicating a negative result.

Durham police have been footing the bill thus far, costing the organization “just under $23,000,” according to Rollauer. This expense will continue to fall on DRPS until February 28, after which employees will have to pay for their own testing.

In the November police board meeting, Deputy Chief Joseph Maiorano estimated this would cost members between $150 and $200 a month.

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