KAWARTHA LAKES-The Kawartha Lakes Police Service is being asked to explain their “extremely high” access to the Coronavirus testing database.
According to a group of human rights organizations — the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, police services across the province searched the COVID testing database 95,000 times in a matter of months. Over 40% of these searches were conducted by two police services: Thunder Bay Police Service and Durham Region Police Service. Thunder Bay Police Service in particular accessed the personal health information in the database over 14,800 times – a rate of access that is ten times higher than the provincial average – even though the area has reported only 100 positive cases since the outset of the pandemic according to the groups.
However on a per capita basis the Kawartha Lakes Police Service was second in terms of access. Officers in the Lindsay area accessed the database 1015 times or 3.8 times per 100 people. Thunder Bay Police had the highest per capita at 12.5 times per 100 people. By comparison the OPP accessed the information 3692 times and Peterborough Police just 22 times.
Kawartha Lakes Police Chief Mark Mitchell told the Police Services Board today that the service was unaware they were accessing the database more than average until they received a letter from the Civil Liberties Association.
“We were unaware that some services utilized the database to a greater extent than others” Mitchell said.”However our usage was entirely in compliance with the regulations surrounding use of the database.”
In a letter sent to the Police Board Chair Don Thomas, human rights groups said they were concerned.
“We are also concerned about the extremely high number of access requests made by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service. Taking into account the population served by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service, KLPS has one of the top five per capita data access rates in the province. The abnormally high number of times the data was accessed raises concerns about whether the database was being used appropriately and whether this large amount of personal information is still being used locally.”
Mitchell says his officers use was entirely within the guidelines.
“We recognize that the creation and use of the database was an attempt to strike a balance between the privacy of the individual and the safety of first responders. We adhered to all Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act regulations.”
The group requested the police services board require the Kawartha Lakes Police Service to undertake an audit of the use of the database and make the results of the audit available to the board and the public and anser the following questions:
• Were the requests made by authorized users?
• Who were the authorized users?
• Were the requests made for authorized purposes, and if so what were those purposes?
• What was the reason for such abnormally high access requests?
The board asked Chief Mitchell to prepare a report answering those questions and present it at the next meeting.