COVID-19 enforcement action detailed in WPS report

Windsor Police crest at police headquarters. Blackburn News file photo.

Windsor police officers were kept busy in 2021 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its annual report.

The service’s COVID-19 response and enforcement actions were outlined in the 2021 report, which can be found on the WPS website. While officers were able to keep virus-related disruption to a minimum, police were very much involved in enforcement, ranging from bylaws put in place by provincial regulations at the time, to peacekeeping at anti-mandate protests.

“With changing provincial and federal legislation in response to COVID-19 infection rates, our members adapted and maintained our continuity of operations, experiencing minimal disruption to public service delivery,” read the report. “The Windsor Police Service continued to work with Public Health and City of Windsor By-Law Enforcement Officers to educate the public and enforce the Emergency Management Civil Protection Act and the Reopening Ontario Act.”

For example, the number of citations issued by police for alleged violations of the two Acts went up in 2021, to 30, from just 13 in 2020. The number of provincial offence notices (PON) also went up, from 11 in 2020, to 79 in 2021.

Police also reported an increase in calls to the 911 operations centre for COVID-19-related complaints, from 1,341 in 2020 to 1,873 in 2021.

PONs for bylaw violations went down, though, to 15 in 2021 from 55 the year before.

Officers were also tasked with patrolling anti-mandate protests that took place throughout 2021, maintaining a delicate balance between keeping the peace and people exercising Charter rights.

“WPS publicly acknowledged the right to peacefully protest and balanced that right with the enforcement of relevant legislation at the time,” read the report. “The Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) Unit and City Centre Patrol (CCP) Unit were both tasked with managing the fluid nature of the protests, employing a variety of tactics to allow the lawful demonstrations without negatively impacting public safety.”

The report also indicated that vaccine compliance among the ranks was very high, though the report did not say how many, if any, officers were disciplined or dismissed for refusing to get a vaccine.

“Any staffing impacts were offset by reassignment of members from elsewhere in the organization and aimed to bolster frontline response and continuity of essential operations,” read the report. “Ultimately, there was effectively no adverse impact on emergency response by the Windsor Police Service.”

The report covers information obtained by both Windsor police and its Amherstburg detachment.