Regional Council questions double standard of unvaccinated police officers on the force from Pickering to Clarington

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Published December 30, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Durham Region Police officers will will not face mandatory vaccine requirements to remain on the force like Regional employees in other organizations have because Interim Chief Todd Rollauer has no idea on how to enforce such a policy.

“Fundamentally, I’m not sure how I enforce it,” Rollauer told Regional Council in their year-end meeting, prompting Clarington Councillor Joe Neal to call it a “double standard.”

“You can be a Regional employee working from home with no contact with members of the public, but you’re required to be immunized to keep your job,” Neal said. “I’m not too clear on why there’s that double standard.”

Fellow Clarington Councillor Granville Anderson also questioned the policy. “The perception of the public is there’s one set of rules for the police and one set of rules for everybody else.”

“I don’t see it as a double standard,” Rollauer responded, “I do not report to the Region. I report to the Durham Regional Police Services Board… Although we are the Durham Regional Police force, there’s a separation for a reason between state and church.”

“People are saying if you don’t get vaccinated, let’s terminate, but I suspect if we start terminating police officers there would be an impact to the organization and our ability to provide effective service,” he added.

Officers who refuse to get vaccinated will have to pay for their own testing every 72 hours starting January 7 or be placed on an unpaid leave of absence while remaining on the force.

The vaccine mandate for Durham Regional employees stretches back to October 20 when workers were required to disclose their vaccination status. They had until December 20 to get both their COVID-19 shots.

As the Region rolled its strategy out Regional Council instructed Rollauer to create a vaccination policy for DRPS officers on October 19. He came back with a three-point plan to encourage vaccination which included a survey phase, an encouragement phase and finally an enforcement phase.

The first phase ended in November, with Rollauer reporting to that month’s police board meeting that nearly one-quarter of officers had not disclosed their status by the deadline.

Of the officer who did respond, 76 per cent declared themselves fully vaccinated. According to Rollauer that number has since climbed to more than 90 per cent.

“There’s different services doing different things,” said Rollauer, “but from my perspective it’s about those that aren’t immunized, finding out why and then providing them the education… and finding out if we can redeploy them where they’re not going to compromise other individuals, or if they need to be put on a leave of absence.”

“I don’t support termination off police officers right now,” he said, “That’s not part of our policy.”

Rollauer confirmed that unvaccinated officers were interacting with the public and detainees as of December 22. While he called the situation “certainly not ideal,” he did not believe this posed a risk to public health.

He confirmed DRPS has seen zero cases of COVID transmission from within the organization out of 27 members who have tested positive of the virus since the pandemic began.

This indicated to him that protocols already in place, such as temperature readings when officers arrive for duty and single-officer cruisers, are working.

Meanwhile, Rollauer “would suspect” that arrested members of the public have been put in the back of police cars with unvaccinated officers, but could not confirm how many since he doesn’t know who on the service was unvaccinated.

“Like I said, I don’t like it. I believe members should be immunized,” Rollauer said, “but as Chief of Police I’ve made a decision of how we’re going to deal with it. Will things change in the future? Potentially.”

Days after the meeting Durham Region announced an explosion of COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant with 3,804 active cases as of December 29.

DRPS officers and civilian employees have until January 7 to file proof of double vaccination or provide regular tests at their expense. “If they do not produce them,” Rollauer said, “they will not be coming to work and they will be unpaid.”

 

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