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Ottawa police to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all staff

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OTTAWA -

The Ottawa Police Service will require all staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the policy doesn’t take effect for another three months.

The new policy, announced Friday afternoon, will come into effect when Ontario begins to lift vaccination requirements to enter restaurants, gyms and other non-essential businesses.

After a week of pressure from Mayor Jim Watson, councillors and the public to require all officers to be fully vaccinated, Chief Peter Sloly announced the new policy would take effect Jan. 31, 2022.

"As Chief, my job is to ensure we have the resources needed to respond immediately and effectively to any emergency and keep the public safe. In a pandemic, that also means working closely with Ottawa Public Health towards the goal of 100 percent vaccination for all our members, as announced earlier this month," said Sloly in a statement.

"It is with those guiding principles in mind that I am announcing the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) will be instituting a mandatory vaccination policy for all members effective January 31, 2022."

As of Friday, approximately 84 per cent of staff are fully vaccinated.

Last week, police unveiled a vaccination policy for all officers and civilians, stating any employee not fully vaccinated would be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test every three days. 

"The OPS has always been working to achieve 100 per cent vaccination for all our members," said Sloly. "That is what this policy is about – providing a safe, effective and responsive police service for the people of Ottawa."

All unvaccinated employees will be required to undergo testing every 72 hours until Jan. 31.

Sloly says the police service has a "limited supply of tests” now. Once they run out of the tests, unvaccinated employees will be required to pay for their own tests.

Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Diane Deans says all OPS members should be fully vaccinated.

"This measure will ensure public confidence in the OPS," said Deans in a statement. "The mandatory vaccination deadline of January 31, 2022 will allow OPS to continue their vaccination efforts while mitigating any potential consequences of an understaffed service on emergency response time."

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, police wouldn't say what would happen to unvaccinated officers after Jan. 31.

"We are actively working with our internal pandemic team, OPS leadership, the Ottawa Police Service Board and our colleagues at the Ottawa Police Association to determine next steps for members who are unvaccinated beyond our deadline," said police.

In a statement on Twitter, Mayor Watson thanked Sloly for "listening to the residents of our city and for the swift action to implement this policy."

Coun. Tim Tierney, who called on police to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, applauded the change of policy.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you – citizens are happy that we're moving in the right direction," said Tierney on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"I do still want to see some of the questions answered that I have in regards to who's been vaccinated and when."

Tierney calls the policy "moving the needle", but wants a meeting with the Ottawa Police Services Board and councillors to discuss the policy in more detail.

The Jan. 31 deadline for police officers to be fully vaccinated will come two weeks after the Ontario government plans to begin lifting COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

According to the Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term released on Oct. 22, Ontario said it may begin gradually lifting proof of vaccination requirements for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, facilities used for sports and recreational facilities, and casinos on Jan. 17.

The city of Ottawa extended the deadline for municipal employees to be fully vaccinated until Nov. 15. As of Thursday, 91.4 per cent of active city employees were fully vaccinated. 

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