COVID-19 means clean shave for Cornwall police officers

Cornwall Police Association President Dave MacLean, sporting a goatee, in a May 2014 file photo. MacLean says he's okay with a directive that all front line officers have to be clean shaven during the novel coronavirus quarantine at Nav Center. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – There are a lot of smooth faces on the front line of the Cornwall Police Service.

Cornwall Police Association President Dave MacLean confirmed they have been directed to shave off any beards, mustaches or goatees and be clean shaven in the wake of the novel coronavirus quarantine situation at Nav Center.

It’s to ensure that breathing masks – required for police officers responding to the quarantine area – have a tight seal.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, MacLean says he doesn’t have any problem with the order.

“I have no problem if it comes down to the health and safety of our membership. Under these circumstances, I think it’s appropriate. I think under other conditions, if it were not a legitimate front line reason, I think we’d be having more of a discussion,” MacLean said. “At this point, I think given the circumstances and the situation, the health and wellness of the membership is first and foremost.”

MacLean estimates it affects approximately 20 of the 40-50 front line officers. “I know for myself, I’ve shaved my own goatee for this as well,” MacLean said of last week’s directive.

Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart told CNW the directive came out on Thursday (Feb. 20) from her office, on behalf of the chief. It affects 45 officers in total.

“The direction did not go to all police officers but went to two groups of people. Those who volunteered to work as quarantine officers at the Nav Center…and, if for some reason those officers required either backup or to be deployed from the Nav Center…it would be from our patrol resources that we would draw those backup units…so they are required to fit for the same personal protective equipment (PPE) as those quarantine officers,” Spowart said.

The PPE is the N95 respirator mask and the deputy chief added that they are also acting on a duty to protect employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

There are 26 police officers who volunteered to fill 60, 12-hour shifts.

Spowart says there haven’t been any issues with officers refusing to comply. In fact, many volunteered to fill the shifts within a few hours.

“We’ve seen a strong sense of solidarity actually, among our employees, where even those who have not been assigned to police the quarantine area are joining their colleagues and reporting clean shaven,” the deputy chief said. Those officers include some in specialty units who would “likely never be asked” to back up the quarantine area.

“I’ve been highly impressed with the professionalism and the leadership shown by our members in response to this event,” Spowart said.