The Hamilton police service said Wednesday that it will require its members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or regularly tested for the virus before work.
Members will need to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 4, the force said, noting that it would adhere to accommodations required under the human rights code.
"We believe mandatory vaccinations are just one of the ways we can reassure our members and the public that we have taken the necessary steps to protect ourselves and the community we serve," Police Chief Frank Bergen said in a statement.
Hamilton police members who believe they can't be fully vaccinated because of a protected ground under the human rights code will be required to request an accommodation under two categories – medical or religious, said spokeswoman Jackie Penman.
Those who don't qualify for such an accommodation will need to undergo regular testing, she said.
"Members who choose not to get fully-vaccinated and who do not qualify for accommodation under the code will be required to provide proof of a negative third-party administered rapid COVID-19 test on the first day of their shift rotation (or) work week, every shift rotation (or) week," she said in a statement.
Penman added that it would be the member's responsibility to schedule and pay for testing.
The Hamilton Police Association, which represents some 1,200 members of the force, said it supports all eligible and able police personnel getting vaccinated.
"If a member is unable to be vaccinated there are alternative options and accommodations that we will assist our members to navigate," it said.
The Hamilton force announced its policy a day after the Toronto police service said it would need all staff to be fully immunized - a policy the union representing officers opposed.
The Toronto police's vaccine policy requires all staff would need to provide proof of their immunization status by Sept. 13. The force said the specifics of the policy were under development but also noted that it would adhere to accommodations required under the human rights code.
The Police Association of Ontario said there was a need for consistent COVID-19 vaccination polices to be developed across all of the province's forces.
"Our sworn and civilian police personnel members who are eligible and able to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should be vaccinated,” president Mark Baxter wrote in a statement.
"This is an important opportunity for all policing stakeholders – services, boards, associations – to work collaboratively and appropriately to ensure there is a uniform commitment to uphold the health and safety of the public and of those who dedicate their lives to protecting Ontario’s communities every day."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021.
Elena De Luigi, The Canadian Press