OPP in northern Ontario looking at recalling retired cops as COVID-19 threatens to reduce workforce

The first provincial police officer in Ontario has tested positive for COVID-19.

Police service expecting coronavirus to eventually affect its staffing levels

OPP have their first case of COVID-19. The officer worked out of the Nipissing West detachment. (Samantha Samson/CBC)

The first provincial police officer in Ontario has tested positive for COVID-19, however the diagnosis is still presumptive.

The officer worked in the Nipissing West detachment, and a local public health agency is tracing who may have come in contact with the officer.

The Nipissing West detachment is located in Sturgeon Falls. 

OPP Staff Sergeant Carolle Dionne said the officer self-isolated on March 17 and was diagnosed on March 21.

"As more people become infected, chances are our workforce is going to be down for a while," Dionne said. 

"So this is where we drive that message home to everybody in our communities across Ontario, how important it is for us to follow the direction made by the Government of Ontario and by our Prime Minister as well...on staying home and ensuring social distancing, limiting contact with people."

The OPP had already begun taking precautions like social distancing, sanitizing equipment and wearing personal protective gear prior to this case, Dionne added. 

 Dionne said since one officer tested positive, they've enhanced the cleaning protocols, and started limiting public access at all OPP-occupied facilities.

But she says it's time the police service looks at ways to bolster its ranks if illness begins to keep officers down. 

"One things with the OPP is that we can reach to other detachments in a nearby jurisdiction or across the province to help alleviate some of the pressures provincially," Dionne said. 

Since 1991, they have also made use of part-time and casual officers. But the OPP is considering casting the net further. 

"We've actually made a reach out to recent retirees," Dionne said. "If they're able to come back to work...forecasting that this may be an issue going forward."


With files from Kate Rutherford


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