Toronto police union calls for one officer per car, the end to meetings that ‘shouldn’t be happening’ amid COVID-19

Toronto police union calls for one officer per car, the end to meetings that ‘shouldn’t be happening’ amid COVID-19
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As front-line officers express “daily” safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic , the Toronto police union is calling for the force to immediately halt all unnecessary contact between officers, including the practice of two officers per car and stop “parades” — the regular platoon meetings of over a dozen officers.

“There’s a lot of concern in the field, and a lot of uncertainty,” said Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, who said he is hearing each day from officers worried about access to personal protective equipment, including masks, and unnecessary gatherings between colleagues.

“It’s a daily battle. Shortage of masks, disinfectant — every day we are dealing with a borderline crisis,” McCormack said, adding he is hopeful that will change with a recent restocking of equipment, including N95 masks, gloves and nearly 500 protective suits, should they be required.

Staffing is stretched, too, McCormack said, with approximately 400 officers currently in self-isolation, many due to March break travel.

A frequent concern from officers is over “parades,” the gathering of a platoon at the start of its shift, when about 15 cops share the same space. If one of the officers gets COVID-19, it could spread to others and take out an entire shift.

Those gatherings, McCormack said, “shouldn’t be happening.”

Meaghan Gray, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said the force is encouraging police to “minimize” the length of parades. That recommendation is among other efforts to socially distance, including staggering lunch hours, and adjusting shifts to limit the number of officers overlapping at one time.

Stressing that the health and safety of TPS members is “paramount,” Gray said the service will have enough masks and maintains a stockpile of all personal protective equipment.

The service is also screening all members reporting for duty, providing daily information updates about self-monitoring and personal hygiene, and has launched a hotline phone number for officers and civilian staff to call and get answers about COVID-19, Gray said.

In an internal communique sent March 19, officers were asked to save and submit their empty hand sanitizer bottles so they can be reused when bulk supplies of hand sanitizer could be replenished.

“Another communication will be out when there is more hand sanitizer to distribute,” reads the internal message.

Although Toronto police has closed all of its divisions to the public and sent members home to work, front-line officers must continue their work in the community, including attending medical complaints, calls to shelters and other public emergencies — all of which require contact with members of the public.

In a video message sent internally to TPA members Monday, McCormack calls COVID-19 the “most significant health crisis” to face the organization.

“For many of you, your job cannot be done from home, you cannot work remotely — you are on the front-lines of this global crisis,” said McCormack.

“We know that you are worried, not only about your health, and the health of your families but also about the well-being of the community,” adding the service and the union are holding daily meetings to discuss any shortages and equipment, and are in regular contact with city and provincial leaders.

The union is also asking the service to suspend, wherever possible, the practice of having two officers within one cruiser in an effort to encourage social distancing.

Gray said unit commanders have been directed to “consider deploying the least number of two-officer patrol cars as possible,” with consideration given to officer safety, operational demands and the Uniform Collective Agreement, which has requirements for when two officers should be in one vehicle.

The Toronto police board is meeting later today, by phone, amid what its executive director Ryan Teschner called “an unprecedented public health emergency.”

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“It is critical to ensure the continuity of adequate and effective policing services,” wrote Teschner in a report earlier this week.

Members of the public can participate in Thursday’s phone meeting by dialing 416-641-6104, and entering passcode 1061538, followed by the # key. Audio of the meeting will be posted to .
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