It is business as usual for the OPP during the COVID-19 pandemic, with measures in place to ensure the health and safety for all of the community, said Huntsville OPP media relations officer, Lynda Cranney. “That is the top priority for everyone, including ourselves. That is paramount.”
However, that was not the experience two Utterson seniors had recently when they were pulled over on Hwy 11 for having a licence plate sticker on the wrong plate of their pickup truck.
Terri Howell and her husband Kim were out to pick up essentials when they were pulled over on April 6. “The officer did not put social distancing into effect,” she wrote in a letter to MPP Norm Miller that she also forwarded to Huntsville Doppler. “And my husband, trapped in his truck was mere feet from the guy’s mouth.”
Howell said that she and her husband had been socially isolating for 24 days and through this interaction were potentially exposed to any virus he was carrying from his contact with other people.
“Instead of standing back and acknowledging that we should fix the sticker, he gave my husband a written warning,” Howell wrote. “More exposure to this officer’s germs.”
Howell added that they would be “placing ourselves in total lockdown for 14 days. We will not be going out to get groceries. All of a sudden we do not know if we have been exposed and that brings a whole new level of unnecessary anxiety to these two senior citizens.”
She asked Miller to “address this issue immediately so the government gives clear guidelines to the OPP to keep us all safe, including themselves. Protocols that are good for the average person should be used by our enforcement officers as well. We are all in this together.”
While Cranney could not comment on that specific situation as she was not present when it occurred, she said all officers have masks and gloves and sanitizing wipes in their patrol cars and these are to be used where practical. However, not all situations are practical and every situation is at the officer’s discretion. Making an arrest or entering a premise, it may not be practical for the officer to wear a mask, she said.
In the case of a pulling over a vehicle, it is the officer’s sense of smell that is often the first indication of an individual driving under the influence, and in that situation an officer must approach the driver’s window. “There may have to be some closeness,” Cranney said.
The OPP will continue to patrol and make traffic stops for all infractions of the law. While Service Ontario locations may be closed, licence plate and driver’s licence renewals can be made online. “Traffic stops will continue,” she said. “People should be staying at home with no unnecessary travel.”
As of today, no laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the Huntsville OPP detachment; on April 13, the OPP said that a member in the West Parry Sound Detachment had tested positive for the disease.
While the OPP as a group had not previously been included in the Province’s criteria for testing, on April 10 the provincial government said that it would be expanding COVID-19 testing, an announcement that included the proactive testing of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.
Cranney added that the OPP are receiving different types of calls during the pandemic, including the public’s concern about public gatherings that should not be occurring—the Province has prohibited gatherings of more than five people. If it is not an emergency, the public can call *OPP (*677) on any mobile phone or call 1-800-310-1122 to report any concerns. The OPP has some additional COVID-19 information for the public here.
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