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Kingston police adjusting to new reality during coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video 'Kingston police adjusting to new reality during coronavirus pandemic' Kingston police adjusting to new reality during coronavirus pandemic
Kingston police held their monthly board meeting Thursday, and the coronavirus pandemic was top of mind. New emergency measures put in place by the province have added extra duties for local municipalities, including enforcement of emergency orders, like prohibiting gatherings of more than five people at a time and closing essential businesses.

Kingston police held their monthly board meeting Thursday, and the coronavirus pandemic was top of mind.

New emergency measures put in place by the province have added extra duties for local municipalities, including enforcement of emergency orders, like prohibiting gatherings of more than five people at a time and closing essential businesses.

READ MORE: Belleville, Ont. bylaw officers busy giving warnings to those breaking coronavirus emergency order

Although some municipalities are cracking down on such infractions, Kingston police chief Antje McNeely says so far, neither police nor bylaw enforcement have laid fines under the new emergency orders.

McNeely said they’ve received 147 emergency order complaints, most of which they have attended, but none of which they have ticketed for.

“People have been very considerate and mindful of what’s happening in the pandemic,” McNeely said.

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Fining isn’t local law enforcement’s main goal either. McNeely said police and bylaw, along with KFL&A Public Health, are working on a “measured approach” to deal with those who may not be following the emergency declarations.

“We’re all looking at the education, we’re looking at dialog, before laying tickets,” said McNeely.

That doesn’t mean police are not actively enforcing emergency orders.

She noted there seems to be some grey area when it comes to what’s considered essential businesses, something Kingston police is working closely with public health to define.

“Public health is really going to be looking at business side of thing, and we’re going to be looking at anything that needs immediate attention, like persons that might be going into the parks and on the playgrounds, or having groups of more than five people,” the chief said.

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McNeely noted that as we speak, provincial police are working on enforcing 14-day quarantines imposed on recent travellers by the federal government.

This is currently being done across the province by OPP, but the job will be picked up by Kingston police soon, once OPP iron out the details of how this particular enforcement will work.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Travellers coming back to Canada now mandated to isolate, feds say

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“Probably by the end of the week, we’ll know what that’s going to look like, and then it’ll be our responsibility to get those names and to check on the people to ensure that they’re quarantining the way they’re supposed to be quarantining,” McNeely told the board.

McNeely also spoke to police officer’s safety, noting that the force still had leftover N95 masks from the SARS pandemic. There has been a callout for these masks, due to a shortage of N95 masks for front-line health-care workers.

Although police were using leftover N95 masks before, they have since received surgical masks and will be donating their stockpile to the medical field.

“We’re passing on these N95 masks to those that do need them,” McNeely said.

As an additional safety measure for front-line officers, Kingston police, along with other law enforcement in the province, now have a listing of all COVID-19 patients in the region, which will be available to a select number of Kingston dispatchers.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario extends state of emergency, pledges more help for long-term care homes

McNeely said that only a select few in the force are able to use this tool, in order to protect the privacy of those involved.

That’s just happened this week, so we’re just up and running now. We haven’t used it at this point in time, but becoming familiar with it,” McNeely said.

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The board also went over it’s quarterly stats, comparing them to this time last year.

“I think with the pandemic, we’re seeing some slight changes,” McNeely told the board.

“It’s hard to know what those changes mean at this point in time or over the long haul what those changes are going to look like. But we’re looking at trends and keeping an eye on that.”

One major change noted were expenses for St. Patrick’s Day, which usually put a strain on the police’s budget for over time.

Click to play video 'Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it' Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it
Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it

Kingston police deputy chief Chris Scott gave credit to Queen’s University and KFL&A Public Health for warning students to stay home during the usually raucous celebrations, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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Scott said enforcement was down significantly from the previous year.

Only 21 tickets issued to party-goers this year, and Kingston police only spent around $6,500 in overtime and additional supply expenses.

Compared to last year’s over $39,000 and 2018’s around $50,000, the difference in deployment needed was stark.