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Criminals look to avoid ‘cuffs with COVID-19 claims, Waterloo’s top cop says

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Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin says that local criminals are attempting to use COVID-19 to evade arrest.

“It’s become a bit of a playbook where individuals that we’re dealing with or are about to arrest suddenly have all the symptoms and/or have self-diagnosed themselves with COVID,” he said.

“I think it’s become a bit of an arrest strategy.”

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That strategy, he told members of the media Monday, includes telling Waterloo officers that they are “contaminated”, thinking the officers won’t take action.

Waterloo’s top cop says that officers will then don personal protective equipment and complete the arrest before transporting suspects to central booking.

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“They still arrest,” he explained. “And then we come in, they screen and quite often, they actually out find that the person doesn’t have a fever.

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“They don’t have shortness of breath, they don’t have a cough.”

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Once the prisoners are brought in for booking, they are screened for the coronavirus.

“In our central lockup, we also take the temperature of the individual,” he said.

“If somebody does come to our central cellblock and is exhibiting symptoms, we contact region of Waterloo paramedics,” Larkin said. “They’ll attend, they’ll make an assessment and then we’ll decide whether or not the individual has to go to hospital, or they don’t have to go to hospital, if they stay in our cell.”

He said that in some situations prisoners have been taken to Grand River Hospital for testing.

In these instances, officers will also be assessed as well.

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“They work with public health to determine whether or not they need to be in self-isolation, self-monitor and or tested,” he explained.

The police chief said a number of officers have been tested, but so far, none have tested positive.

“But … we put a lot of different practices in place to ensure the protection of our members and, quite frankly, the protection of people we come in contact with,” he explained.

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Larkin says that if someone from the force tested positive, there is a plan in place.

“If an on-duty member tested positive for COVID, our strategy would be to publicly disclose, because obviously there’s been a whole bunch of paths that we would need to follow to ensure to get anybody that the officer team (contacted) was aware, so they can take their own health options into place,” Larkin said.