British Columbia Police and First Responders Prepare for Impacts of Omicron’s Rising Force on Staffing

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Police and other first responders in British Columbia are preparing contingency plans as the Omicron variant is contributing to rapid transmission of COVID-19 throughout the province.

In other jurisdictions, staffing shortages due to infected or isolating officers have strained police forces and other first responders.

The Winnipeg Police Chief has declared a “state of emergency” due to 90 active cases and 170 isolated members, while Calgary and Edmonton have reported significant impacts on their own police services.

In British Columbia, the first impacts have started to be felt. Nearly half of the Prince Rupert fire department was isolating itself from COVID on Thursday, while the province’s largest RCMP detachment confirmed dozens of employees became ill this week.

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Winnipeg Police Chief declares state of emergency for force over COVID-19

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Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said on Thursday he had taken the extraordinary step of invoking a clause in members’ contracts, effective Monday, which allows him to reassign officers if necessary, potentially putting detectives and supervisors on patrol, if necessary.

Manak did not say how many officers were affected, but he did confirm that officers had been off work due to the virus.


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Winnipeg Police Chief declares state of emergency for force over COVID-19


Winnipeg Police Chief declares state of emergency for force over COVID-19

“Has the Omicron made an impact on the Victoria Police Department?” Absoutely. It had an impact on our officers, our staff, as it is with all organizations, ”said Manak.

“Given the trend, it is very likely that things will get worse before they get better. We have to plan for this, we have to be ahead of it. We want to be ahead of this. And we want to do everything we can to maintain an operational level or readiness. “

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Victoria Police were following the latest directives from provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry on returning to work, and that vaccinated officers whose symptoms were gone returned after five days.

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In Surrey, RCMP said 21 officers and 10 civilian employees had become ill with COVID-19 since December 28.

Spokesman Sgt. Elenore Sturko said the detachment was using a model similar to that implemented by Victoria, which would allow it to move officers from “areas where operations may be reduced or delayed” to frontline positions.

The detachment has operated an internal emergency operations center to track and manage illnesses and absences since early 2020, she said.

“For example, we don’t do a lot of presentations in schools, you know schools are affected as well. So we are able to transfer some of these officers to frontline operations, ”Sturko said.


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200 City of Edmonton employees on leave with COVID-19, including Edmonton firefighters and police


200 City of Edmonton employees on leave with COVID-19, including Edmonton firefighters and police

She added that RCMP officers were in segregation for seven days, rather than the province’s reduced five-day directive.

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Vancouver Police did not disclose the number of officers isolated due to COVID-19, but said Omicron did not significantly affect operations.

“We are not currently concerned with our ability to provide service to the city and maintain current service levels,” said Sgt. said Steve Addison.

“We have contingency plans in place if we have a significant number of police or civilian personnel breaking down due to COVID. At the moment, we are doing well.

Addison said the VPD also had plans to move officers from investigative divisions to the front line, but the department was “not at that stage at this time.”

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In a statement, BC Emergency Health Services, which operates the province’s ambulance service, said it was “closely monitoring staffing levels” and had an internal emergency coordination center to track risks. of COVID-19.

The Provincial Health Services Authority said on January 4, 69 paramedics and dispatchers out of a workforce of 4,000 reported sick, but could not confirm they were all linked to COVID-19 .

Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers Union, said he was told that COVID-19 cases in the service were compatible with other health professions and public safety disciplines.

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“I heard today that up to 15% of them were extinct. I know Dr Bonnie Henry said he expects 25, 30 percent of the staff in all companies, departments – I don’t know if we’ll see that, ”he said.


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Vancouver Police Board goes its own way and doesn’t require officers to be vaccinated – December 7, 2021

“Omicron is a game-changer in the sense that the number of people are showing signs and symptoms,” he added.

“This is what we will be working on over the next few days, how we are going to be better prepared, is there anything else we can do to improve it, (have) managers on the bridge … this are the things we are pushing for.

Clifford said the BC Ambulance Service could be stretched, the already well-reported staffing issues he has faced are now exacerbated by the disease.

Professional Firefighters Association president Gord Ditchburn said Thursday that the new variant affects firefighters in communities across the province.

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“It has an impact, but we are mitigating that by having additional staff. Departments meet their staffing needs in a variety of ways, either by using volunteers or by working overtime, ”Ditchburn said in an interview.

The city of Prince Rupert said in a statement that five members returned to work on Thursday, leaving eight of the 20 firefighters still isolated due to COVID-19.

He said the department manages, but while he can’t resolve serious incidents with his level of staff, he has an agreement with the nearby Port Edward Volunteer Fire Department to help.

– with files from Rumina Daya and the Canadian Press

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