Today, the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP) is making a public plea to the provincial government to immediately include police officers as a priority group within the vaccination roll-out plan.
Throughout this pandemic, police officers across the province have worked to ensure the safety and security of all Manitobans. For police officers, much like other first-responders, their front-line work never stopped.
In the early days of the pandemic, when little was known about the virus and personal protective equipment was in short supply, these officers continued to carry-out their critical duties. They did so, not only because of their sworn duty to protect but also because they care deeply about the communities they serve and the wellbeing of the people of Manitoba.
The fear of contracting COVID-19 is real for police officers as their work regularly brings them into confined spaces and close contact with a number of people. This concern remains ever-present. On a daily basis, our members attend private residences, vehicle collisions, and crime scenes. They respond to individuals in medical distress, transport patients to medical help, make life-saving efforts including the performance of CPR, trauma first aid, delivery of Naloxone, and the like. They intervene in situations where individuals may be severely intoxicated, badly injured, or violent. They do not have the opportunity to socially distance during these interactions. On every shift, our frontline officers face a significant risk of exposure to COVID-19.
And our concern is not solely about our officers contracting the virus, but also unknowingly becoming carriers, and potentially spreading it to the most vulnerable segments of our society. On a daily basis, officers work closely with the elderly, people experiencing homelessness and those suffering from drug or alcohol dependencies. The MACP is aware of multiple instances where officers provided CPR to persons who were later confirmed to be COVID-19 positive.
For the RCMP and the Manitoba First Nations Police Service, their officers work and live in many remote and isolated First Nation communities. Often, these officers are required to attend calls and provide essential policing services to multiple remote communities. While every precaution is taken, there is always a potential for an officer to spread the virus. The emergence of virus variants makes this risk doubly concerning.
While Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization statement (NACIs guidance) on the COVID-19 vaccine, states that “Many essential services (e.g. police, firefighters, food production) cannot be provided virtually, potentially leading to an increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Immunizing essential workers minimizes the disproportionate burden of those taking on additional risks to maintain services essential for the functioning of society.” Regretfully, not all provinces (including Manitoba) have opted to follow the NACI guidelines.
The MACP has been a strong supporter of every action taken by MB Public Health to protect lives during the pandemic, including the roll-out of the vaccination plan. There is no doubt that we need to make sure that the most vulnerable are taken care of first. But then we also need to make sure that those who protect them are protected from the virus as well.
We strongly believe the time has come for the provincial vaccination plan to prioritize police officers. This has been done in other provinces and it must be done here. With the new variants now spreading, officers must be vaccinated so that they can continue to provide their critical service to the people of Manitoba, and so that the people they serve can stay safe.
We are urging the provincial government to help our police officers and to help keep our communities and our most vulnerable safe.
MACP President Marc Robichaud and Executive Board
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