April 8, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


Today’s COVID-19 Report focuses on actions being taken by police agencies in Canada.

In many ways, Canadian police agencies are similar to those in the United States, with layers of municipal, provincial, and federal agencies operating independently of each other. 

But in an April 3 interview, several Canadian chiefs told us about strategies that we have not seen in the United States.

As of April 7, Canada has had nearly 18,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, and at least 374 fatalities, according to Canadian news outlets.


York, Ontario Regional Police Superintendent Wallace Gossen:

We Are Building a Reserve by Requiring Officers To Use Some of Their Leave Time to Stay Home 

Early on, we anticipated that officers would come down with the virus or would be exposed to someone with it and need to self-isolate for 14 days. So right away we decided to start building a reserve of officers. We’ve placed one-third of our officers on reserve who typically would be working, and they rotate through the reserve.

Here’s how it works.  If we have 30 members on a platoon, we announce that 10 of them won’t report for duty for a given shift. They’ll be at home on standby. And we issued a chief’s order saying that on the days when they’re home, they have to abide by certain conditions to be available and stay healthy.

To build that reserve, we’ve required officers to use some of their accrued time off.  We’ve worked with our officers’ associations on this. We have provisions in our contract that allowed us to require officers to take some of their accrued time off by June 30, so for the first time in 30 years, we’ve chosen to exercise that right.

The benefit is that officers who are out of the workforce on a given day won’t be exposed to persons on the street who may have the virus. So we’ll have enough healthy officers to replace any officers who become sick or have to self-quarantine.

We didn’t invent this idea. It was something that some of our European counterparts learned the hard way.


Ottawa, Ontario Police Chief Peter Sloly:

Quebec Has Stopped Travel with Other Provinces

Our provinces, like your states, have their own self-governance. So there are different phases and emphases in the provinces’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the province of Quebec has shut down non-essential travel between provinces.  That would be like shutting down interstate travel in the United States. They have placed municipal and provincial police officers at highways and bridges to interdict traffic going inbound and outbound. Quebec is the only province so far to do so. Ontario has considered it but hasn’t done it.

Here in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, the city is running the overall response to the pandemic. Ottawa Public Health is the incident command organization, and we are a support agency to Ottawa Public Health.

We only have two members right now who have been diagnosed with the virus, but there are probably others who will be confirmed in the near future. Our staffing has actually gone up. We’ve done such a good job of trying to keep people healthy, that people want to come in and help.

One challenge across the board in Canada is that there are various levels of emergency orders that have been announced. Some of that is ticket-writing, and some could involve actual arrests, but much of it at this point is education and public engagement for compliance.

Enforcement of emergency orders could quickly become the single biggest demand on our police service here, and one that could put us at odds with the community if the communication isn’t right. If the case for real enforcement isn’t made well, police could be seen as the enemy. This could become a major public trust issue.

Healthy Reserve:  We’ve also started to put a plan in place for a Healthy Reserve, based on the leadership of the York Regional Police here and learning from other agencies around the world. You have to recognize that you’re going to lose a chunk of your workforce and make the tough decision to implement a Healthy Reserve.  You’re holding back a number of your people and telling them to stay at home. Then you’ll have a Healthy Reserve to deploy. Otherwise you’re just rolling the dice about what people might contract during their normal duties as a front-line officers.

The Healthy Reserve is a consideration for your communications dispatchers, too, because the communications center may be an even bigger risk.


Ottawa Police Superintendent Mark Ford: 

We’re just starting to get a handle on contact tracing after a member tests positive. Contact tracing identifies people who may have come into contact with that individual and now need to self-isolate. I think it’s important to implement strategies to quickly identify those people and contain the spread.


Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders:

We’re Using $750 Fines to Enforce Rules about Parks; And We’ve Switched to Solo Cars to Put Officer Health First

We’ve had two State of Emergency orders limiting gatherings of people and closing non-essential businesses. Our compliance rate has been 99%, and the 1% non-compliance is about social distancing in parks, especially on warm days, when people were going out en masse.

Our mayor created new by-laws that took effect today. I’m working with my community response officers on a blitz, where we have officers on horses and bikes, going into parks. We have 1,500 parks and identified the top 200.  The fines are serious, starting at $750  [$536 U.S. dollars] for using amenities in parks that are fenced off and marked as closed, such as playgrounds or soccer fields.   Ontario province is rolling out a model to educate people about why this heavy enforcement is necessary. The models show how dangerous COVID-19 can be, and how rapidly it spreads. We’re telling the community that they have to invest in social distancing in order for it to work. I think it will work, because people will understand why we’re doing the enforcement.

We have 7,400 people in our organization, and only 7 of them have tested positive. However, our self-isolations are high. My business and analytics people have created measuring tools for me, so on a day-to-day basis, I know how many resources I have in real time. I know my what my calls for service look like.

By and large, our calls have gone down. The majority of calls we’re getting are medically related. Earlier, our call-takers were getting bombarded with medical calls, because the tele-health lines did not have enough capacity, so calls came to us by default when tele-health wasn’t picking up the phone. But they hired a lot of retired nurses and other people to handle those calls, and that reduced our calls.

One-person cars:  We usually have two people in a car between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., but we have switched to using solo cars.

When we deploy officers between those hours, there still have to be two officers responding. We worked that out with our union, and they’re aligned with putting officer health first. The union is at all the meetings we have, twice a day, seven days a week.

COVID testing for police officers is slow. We’re working with Public Health to make first responders a priority in Toronto.


Calgary, Alberta Deputy Chief Katie McClellan:

We’re Doing a Lot of Video Conferencing with Our Officers

We have been doing temperature checks for all of our executive and administrative staff for the last couple weeks. We’re rolling that out to our line officers, and we have support from our unions to do that.

As of now, our staffing is up and our call load is down. But we’re making plans to backfill and adjust shifts when our staffing goes down.

We’ve enhanced our online policing services, and we’ve moved to teleconferencing and video conferencing in many of our areas. Over the last few weeks we’ve also added a Wednesday live stream. So far it has been our chief with our nurse and psychologist, and we plan to have other leaders in the organization participate going forward. People can send in questions and comments, and we can address those on the fly.

We’ve seen an increase in cyberattacks. We’re enhancing the team that handles those by bringing over other subject matter experts from throughout the service.


Vancouver, British Columbia Chief Adam Palmer:

Our 3-1-1 and 8-1-1 Phone Lines Help Divert Non-Emergency Calls Away from 9-1-1

We have three numbers for the public to call: 9-1-1 for emergencies, 3-1-1 for city services, and 8-1-1 to speak with a nurse for health-related questions. We’re directing all calls about things like restaurants not closing or large gatherings of people to 3-1-1. Those calls are handled by park rangers, city license inspectors, and others, so our police officers aren’t involved in that.

We just improved our internet crime reporting system in December, and we’re directing people to use that system when possible. We also have moved some detectives and people on light duty to staff our telephone reporting system. We’re really sending officers in-person only to our priority 1 and priority 2 calls.

Our jail numbers are way down because we’re using different release methods whenever possible.

Homelessness is a huge issue for us in Vancouver. In certain neighborhoods it’s hard to get homeless persons to socially distance. The city has opened two large community centers where they are moving homeless people who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. People who are exhibiting symptoms are given medical help. We are trying to get people off the street, but it has been a huge challenge.

Our first officer who tested positive for COVID-19 is just about ready to come back to work. People who get sick won’t be out indefinitely. Officers go out, stay home, recover, and they look forward to coming back once they’re healthy.



Mountain View, California Operational Guide

The Mountain View, CA Police Department shared the operational guide they are implementing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide includes information about operations, equipment, testing, wellness, and FAQs. To view the guide, click here.


Council on Criminal Justice Web Panel: Public Safety in a Public Health Crisis 

From the Council on Criminal Justice:

In the midst of a public health crisis, law enforcement agencies across the nation are facing new demands to protect their communities - and themselves.

Join the Council on Criminal Justice and law enforcement leaders as they share what they're trying, what they've learned, and what they are facing in the era of COVID-19.

Featured speakers include former ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske; Seattle Chief Carmen Best; Tampa Mayor Jane Castor; NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker; and PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler.

The web panel will take place tomorrow, April 9th, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Eastern time. Click here to register.


What scheduling changes has your agency made in response to COVID-19?

Please click here to let us know about any scheduling changes your agency has made to protect officers while ensuring coverage during the COVID-19 outbreak. Responses may be used in a future edition of our Daily COVID-19 Report.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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