Needle or mask policy for cops as MWG Supt Roger Beer calls for police district’s COVID jab rate to be higher

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Masked police at Perth airport.
Camera IconMasked police at Perth airport. Credit: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

The region’s top cop says police and other frontline emergency workers have a “responsibility” to society to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as it emerged officers who refuse to get the jab will soon be forced to wear masks on duty.

Mid West Gascoyne District Supt Roger Beer said about 60 per cent of his workforce — consisting of up to 260 employees — had received at least one jab.

But he would like that rate to be higher.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson on Monday revealed he would soon be “implementing a policy that any WA Police employee who has not received at least one COVID vaccination will be required to wear a mask at all times while at work”.

Police officers have been eligible for the vaccine since the rollout started in February, but Mr Dawson said despite being at the front of the queue his force’s uptake was “unacceptably low”.

Statewide, as of last week, 64.7 per cent of WA Police employees had received their first jabs, while 51.6 per cent had been fully vaccinated.

Supt Beer, who has had both his AstraZeneca jabs, said it was likely there was a variety of reasons why some police employees had not been vaccinated, including a lack of opportunity due to being in remote locations or working shifts.

“Some people are absolutely opposed to vaccination, while others have concerns about health risks ... police are probably reflective of society in general,” he said.

“That’s why it’s best that we do all we can to convince them (to get vaccinated) when you look at the rates of infection around the world.

“It’s really important that police and other frontline health and emergency workers who are out and about in the community get vaccinated. It’s one of our responsibilities to community.”

Mid West Gascoyne Superintendent Roger Beer.
Camera IconMid West Gascoyne Superintendent Roger Beer. Credit: Francesca Mann/Geraldton Guardian

Supt Beer said in the Eastern States some police stations had been severely inconvenienced because of COVID-19 outbreaks and exposure, so the WA force should be doing all it could to avoid that here. When asked if the mask policy would be an added incentive for more police employees to get the jab, Supt Beer said: “I can’t see why it wouldn’t be.”

Mr Dawson said the new rules would start at the top, with senior executives and staff banned from attending this week’s senior management forum unless they had received at least one jab.

Mr Dawson said while a rise in the force’s vaccination rate since they started being published internally last month was encouraging, “apathy seems to remain” and he warned the Delta variant was “causing death and misery across the world”.

Last week, more than 3600 police employees who had not registered their vaccination status were sent a survey asking a series of questions. It’s compulsory for hotel quarantine workers in WA to be vaccinated and it will be mandatory for staff in aged care homes from mid-September.

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