Toronto Star

Unvaccinat­ed cops are a public threat

- Emma Teitel Twitter: @emmarosete­itel

If you’re pulled over in your car by a Toronto police officer for disobeying the rules of the road, the worst you should get out of the experience is a ticket — not an infectious disease.

Unfortunat­ely, though, what should happen rarely does happen, particular­ly where major institutio­ns are involved. So it goes with cops and COVID-19 vaccines.

Monday marked the deadline for officers to disclose their vaccinatio­n status to their employer. Most did, according to a Toronto police spokespers­on.

But what about those who didn’t? What about those who believe it’s their right to remain out and about, unvaccinat­ed, dealing with residents in the city? So far, a whole lot of nothing.

This is because, according to reporting by the Star’s Wendy Gillis, last week, the Toronto Police Associatio­n, the union representi­ng the city’s police officers “negotiated a commitment from Toronto Police Service that officers will not be discipline­d and will not be transferre­d to a different posting if they don’t disclose their vaccinatio­n status by Sept. 13.”

Instead, according to a Toronto police statement shared with me Tuesday (the day after the disclosure deadline), the service “is continuing to develop the (vaccinatio­n) policy, which will include how it will be implemente­d.”

In other words, it appears as though cops who are unvaccinat­ed or whose vaccinatio­n status is unknown will remain in public-facing jobs until further notice.

This is straight up unacceptab­le. If police brass need more time to iron out the details, fine. But in the meantime, let’s get the officers whose vax status is unknown off the street. Unvaccinat­ed cops and those who refuse to disclose their vaccinatio­n status should be transferre­d immediatel­y away from roles where they’re dealing directly with the community.

As Star writer Matt Elliot pointed out in a column last month, few Torontonia­ns have a choice when it comes to dealing with police.

We have choices about whether we want to shop at a grocery store knowing some people inside might be unvaccinat­ed. We have a choice about how we want to vote in the upcoming pandemic election: in person or by mail. But when it comes to the police, whether you’re questioned in a car, on the street, or in a park encampment, your choice is moot. You’re compelled to stop and talk, potentiall­y up close and personal, with someone who is armed no less.

Torontonia­ns deserve to deal with public servants in any capacity who are fully vaccinated — whether they’re behind a desk or behind a badge. But considerin­g the major power imbalance present in cop-civilian encounters, we should be guaranteed the peace of mind of knowing that the person grilling us, corralling us, or pinning us down is unlikely to give us COVID-19 in the process.

Last month, in a statement about the Toronto police’s just-announced mandatory vaccinatio­n policy, interim Chief James Ramer said, “The safety of our members, our workplaces and the public is of utmost importance to us. Our members will be required to be fully vaccinated to protect each other and the communitie­s we serve.”

But if those members refuse to disclose their vaccinatio­n status — i.e., if they refuse to protect each other and the communitie­s they serve — is it not in the interest of public safety to swiftly replace them with officers who will protect their communitie­s? Is it not in the interest of public safety to tell their union: “Sorry, no can do” when it comes to humouring unvaccinat­ed officers even for a few days?

Maybe I’m asking too much of a police force whose principles appear consistent­ly out of whack — a force that seems to take a hard line against homelessne­ss and a soft one against antivaxxer harassment of small business.

But it’s a concept as simple as it is right. If you possess the state-sponsored power to invade another person’s personal space with physical force, you should be vaccinated against the potentiall­y deadly illness that’s going around. And the second it becomes clear that your vaccinatio­n status is unknown, that power should be stripped from you.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada