Victoria Police Department has told all of its unionized officers they may be switched to different roles, including frontline duty, as it reacts to possible staffing shortages due to anticipated rising numbers of people calling in sick due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
The notice to officers relates to a clause in the collective agreement between the department and the Victoria City Police Union that allows the chief to move workers to different roles if he thinks there is an emergency.
It is the first time the department has invoked the clause.
Starting this weekend, the department has signalled that some officers may be moved to the patrol division to assist in frontline call response.
“This redeployment is being made to ensure that Victoria Police Department is able to continue to meet our public safety mandate,” the department said in a statement on Thursday.
Department spokesman Const. Cam MacIntyre said: “The announcement is anticipatory and in response to a public emergency due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant over the coming weeks.
It does not mean that the department itself is in a state of emergency.
“With the COVID-19 numbers rising, we feel that this is an appropriate response to a health emergency.”
MacIntyre stressed that the measure is temporary.
Chief Del Manak said: “Maintaining the continuity of police operations during this global pandemic is critical. I am extremely grateful to our officers who are adjusting their shifts and schedules to serve on the frontlines, ensuring that citizens of Victoria and Esquimalt know that, when they call 911, a uniformed officer will respond to their call for help.”
The union said it is working with the department in its response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and is on board with the decision.
“The union will continue to monitor and hopes the emergent situation will be resolved shortly so workers can return to their regular duties and schedule,” said union spokesman Matt Waterman.
The department faces ongoing staffing challenges. About 50 officers are off regular duties due to injury, training or administrative purposes.