Call for audit of London police use of COVID-19 database
LONDON, ONT. -- Four legal and civil liberties organizations are calling for a public audit after the London Police Service (LPS) accessed a provincial COVID-19 database more than 10,000 times while it was active between April and July.
This week, the London Police Services Board (LPSB) received a letter from Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario questioning the LPS usage of the database.
"We looked at all police services and London stands as a top five in per capita usage," says Abby Deshman, a director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "We are concerned what they did with that data."
In early April, the province passed an emergency order authorizing the release of individuals’ names, dates of birth and addresses if they had tested positive for COVID-19.
The LPSB says they had concerns a couple months ago, and sent correspondence to the Ontario Ministry of Health, Premier Doug Ford and the Solicitor General to reconsider whether full disclosure of this information was necessary.
"We also passed a policy that was explicit regarding protecting information and asking for a report back on the information," says Dr. Javeed Suhkera, president of LPSB.
"A lot of the questions in the letter pertain to operations, which we can't speak to. That would be the LPS leadership, but we are expecting LPS to give us a complete and comprehensive report as per our policy at our September meeting."
CTV News reached out to LPS and asked to speak to the chief of police. We were informed there was no comment at this time.
The London Police Association (LPA) says accessing the data was initially a matter of public safety.
"Our intent was that police routinely interact with people and there is no control over whose home they go to, or who they interact with," says Rick Robson, president of the LPA.
"In our mind it was a form of contract tracing. If officers knew they were attending home where someone is COVID-positive they would take proper precautions, to ensure there is no spread of this virus during the pandemic."
The organizations are calling for LPS to immediately delete the personal health information that was collected through this database. They also want the LPSB to conduct an audit into why the LPS accessed the personal medical information 10,475 times.
"Toronto Police Service didn't put any searches against this database," adds Deshman.
"People were not informed when they went for a COVID-19 test that this information would be shared with police. We never understood why it was useful to police to have access to this kind of database. The public that LPS deals with has a right to know why there were so many searches."
Robson believes this information will be destroyed, "It has no practical value for my understanding going forward for policing in any event," he says.