WRPS accessed provincial COVID-19 database to keep officers safe, police chief says
KITCHENER -- The Waterloo Regional Police Service accessed Ontario's COVID-19 database in order to keep its officers safe, Chief Bryan Larkin said.
The database was available between April and July, before it was shut down due to a legal challenge by Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario due to privacy concerns.
The database allowed first responders to access personal information about people who had tested positive for COVID-19. The CCLA raised red flags because it allowed people outside of the health care field to access the information.
Larkin said there were stringent guidelines about who could access the database and why they were using it.
Data supplied by the CCLA showed the WRPS accessed the database 1,180 times between April 17 and July 20.
"Which is approximately a rate of 0.2 per 100 persons in Waterloo Region," Larkin said at a virtual Police Services Board meeting on Wednesday.
There were 41 people at the service who were authorized to access the database. They were all civilian employees working as dispatchers and communications supervisors.
They only accessed the database if a call taker had received a positive or unknown response to any COVID-19 screening questions, or if an officer arrived at an incident and received a positive or unknown response to screening questions or observed a symptomatic person.
Once the database was accessed, officers at the scene would be told whether they needed "universal precautions."
"Within emergency service, there is a term deemed universal precautions, which would indicate an officer or other emergency service would be required to wear a gown, wear a mask," Larkin said.
Waterloo regional police said they didn't enter any COVID-19 status information into their records. Larkin also said the Solicitor General audited a week's worth of queries and found all 46 that week complied with the rules.
While access to the database is no longer available, Larkin said he's confident his officers will stay safe at this point without the database.
"If you look at our exposure rate -- more than 400 exposures but no on-duty-related positive testing," he said. "We had one positive test which was related to a civilian professional and not work-related, so again, I believe we are in a good place moving forward as a police service."
The Guelph Police Service accessed the database 4,057 times, according to the CCLA. The force said it would discuss it at the next Police Services Board meeting, which is scheduled for next week.