Nearly 400 Regina and Saskatoon police officers have been forced into isolation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and 38 officers have tested positive for the virus., according to police service statistics.
The Saskatoon Police Service says 293 officers have had to quarantine — some repeatedly — and 23 have tested positive for COVID-19. The Regina Police Service about 100 officers have isolated over the past year because of COVID-19 close contacts, with 15 testing positive.
Saskatoon’s acting Police Chief Mitch Yuzdepski said those numbers contribute to staffing shortages and that front-line police officers should be prioritized in Phase 2 of the province’s vaccination program.
“We are being asked to go into situations where someone who is COVID-positive is not self-isolating or refusing to stay and isolate in a hotel,” Yuzdepski said.
“In many of those cases, because of the duration of the contact with the positive person, our members have had to self-isolate.”
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said that, so far, his force has been able to manage staffing numbers.
“We haven’t had to use that word outbreak within our police service,” Bray said.
We are being asked to go into situations where someone who is COVID positive is not self isolating or refusing to stay and isolate in a hotel.– Mitch Yuzdepski
According to the Saskatoon Police Service, its members have responded to 121 calls for service to people suspected of breaking COVID health orders.
Provincial policing organizations including the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police (SACP) and the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers (SFPO) recently sent letters to Premier Scott Moe asking that front-line officers be included in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout.
The SACP said front-line officers are typically younger and ineligible for the vaccine until the later stages of the rollout, in which the general public will be vaccinated from oldest to youngest.
Yuzdepski said of the 293 Saskatoon city police officers forced into quarantine during the pandemic, 62 had to self-isolate at least two times and seven have had to isolate three separate times.
“For those people, including the chief himself, who have had to self-isolate, they’ve said it’s no picnic.”
Both the SACP and SFPO have requested meetings with the premier and government officials involved in vaccine planning.
“Without the vaccine, front-line members will continue to be exposed and infected by the virus, requiring them to quarantine and isolate. This reduces staffing levels and our ability to sustain community safety and well-being, including preventing community spread of COVID-19,” the SACP letter to Moe stated.
The SACP and Yuzdepski both noted that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends vaccinating police officers during Phase 2 of the rollout.
The Ministry of Health responded to an interview request with an email response.
“Phase 2 of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan is built on the foundation of age as the main risk factor, and will include targeted vaccinations for adults and staff in group homes for persons with intellectual disabilities and shelters, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable adults,” the email stated.