Winnipeg’s police chief has declared a state of emergency for the Winnipeg Police Service as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on staff levels.
Danny Smyth says 80 more officers are being deployed from other units to bolster ranks in general patrol starting on Monday.
The WPS has 90 active COVID-19 cases and 170 people have booked off time due to the illness, said Smyth. Of those, 136 are officers who are sick.
“We have some real challenges ahead. The current COVID-19 situation has significantly impacted our staffing resources. It has become necessary to execute parts of our Business Continuity Plan to ensure essential services – particularly in General Patrol,” Smyth said in a statement sent to media.
“Additional officers from other units will be redeployed from other areas of the Service to backfill on short notice.
“Once we started getting above 10 per cent in sick leave, we started paying close attention to our staffing at that point.
“We run a three shift model…. We’d be looking to condense that and bolster resources…. That’s a little ways down the road, we’re not there now.”
Smyth said it’s hoped the changes mean that general patrol units will be available to dispatch for help, but said more will be redeployed if needed.
Community support units and the guns and gangs unit will be the first units redeployed, he said. So far, response times have not been largely affected.
Smyth reiterated that there is not a shortage of officers at this point.
The last time a state of emergency was declared at the WPS was in 1997 during the ‘Flood of the Century,’ said Smyth. Declaring a state of emergency allows the chief to bypass some rules of the collective agreement around shift changes, he added.
“We do have minimum requirements in general patrol and we’ve been meeting those.”