CK police develop flexible COVID-19 vaccination policy

Chief Conn (Photo courtesy Chatham-Kent Police Service)

Chatham-Kent police officers will have to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status by Monday or be subject to testing before the beginning of their shift.

Chief Gary Conn said the new vaccination policy that kicks in on October 18, 2021 includes allowances for a medical exemption for those with underlying medical conditions, an exemption under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and allows officers to refuse the shot, but it doesn’t mandate termination or suspension for personal refusal.

Chief Conn admitted that his officers have mixed feelings about the vaccine but believes there will only be a small percentage of them who will seek an exemption. Regardless, he doesn’t expect there will be any staffing gaps or a shortage of officers on patrol.

Conn said he’s trying to be consistent with a vaccine policy that is similar to the municipality’s policy that gives people a choice between a vaccine or a test and believes they have developed a fair and equitable procedure taking into consideration there will be exemptions.

“They will have to provide proof of the test, obviously a negative test, at the beginning of their day shift and then 48 hours before the beginning of their night shift,” said Conn. “Obviously, our primary concern and what we’re committed to is providing and maintaining a safe environment for all. We’ve always been of the opinion that the overarching priority for us is both employee and public safety,” the chief noted.

Officers will not have to pay for their tests as they will be provided by their workplace.

Conn said he is optimistic the pandemic will end soon, adding the policy could change if it is required or removed when it is no longer needed.

“We will be revisiting our policies and procedures as this unfolds over the next few months. I want to remain optimistic and believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that we’re entering into post-pandemic,” he added.

The chief noted to date just over 71 per cent of his officers have disclosed they are fully vaccinated.

Chief Conn said he consulted with various local agencies, including the municipality, the union, the chief medical officer of health, and the public health unit.

Chatham-Kent police do not fall within the municipality’s policies because the chief said they are an arms-length body that reports to an independent civilian police service board.

The municipal employees’ vaccination policy also takes effect on Monday. Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services fall under the municipal policy.