COVID-19 cases across the Winnipeg Police Service have prompted the city’s police chief to declare a state of emergency.
In a news release sent Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief Danny Smyth said the service has 90 active COVID-19 cases, and 170 personnel have booked time off on COVID-19-related leave.
“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,” said Chief Smyth in a statement.
Police said the service has designated 80 officers to be assigned to general patrol starting Jan. 10, and additional officers from other units will be redeployed to backfill on short notice.
Smyth said for Wednesday there are 900 officers who are scheduled on the roster and 136 are off sick.
The changes are to ensure general patrol units remain available.
Smyth said the units that would be redeployed first are the Community Support Unit and the Guns and Gangs Unit.
Police said if circumstances change and additional pressure is put on staffing levels, the service will consider redeploying additional personnel or “restructuring the shift model currently deployed.”
Smyth said they haven’t reached that point yet to change the shift model but the situation is being monitored closely.
“We run a three-shift model that has three reliefs—days, evenings and nights. We’d be looking to condense that and try to bolster up resources, probably in a two-shift model. That would be a little ways down the road. We are not in that space now,” Smyth said at a news conference.
He added there isn’t currently a lack of officers on the streets, and the redeployment has started to ensure the proper resources are in place.
The chief also explained why the redeployment model won’t be starting until Jan. 10.
“We already to have the ability to tap into some of these resources immediately. For some that we are going to be changing, we’re going to be changing their life frankly, they’re shifting. We needed to give them a few days notice to get their home life in order so they can adjust to a different shift.”
Smyth said seeing the number of people off sick is concerning, noting it has been a tough few years for the officers. However, he added that he has been pleased with the response from all officers throughout the pandemic.