Durham police say they are in the process of deleting records their members accessed from a provincial COVID-19 database.
The First Responders COVID-19 Risk Look-Up Tool is a web portal the province set up back in April, in order to help first responders identify potential cases of COVID-19.
Access to the portal was strictly limited to communications and dispatch centre personnel who, in turn, would advise officers about any potential COVID-19 tests associated with a particular call or location.
That would allow the officer to make an informed decision about what precautions they should take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Durham police, the information in the portal was never guaranteed to be complete, accurate or up-to-date and the province had acknowledged that there may have been inconsistencies.
Although Durham officers made over 24,000 queries to the database since April, police say that officers had no way of knowing whether a test came back as positive, negative or was still pending.
Officers would only be informed that someone involved in the call or in the area of the call had taken a test.
No personal health information was entered into the Durham police system during the time officers were accessing the database and the force says most people voluntarily disclosed information about taking a COVID-19 test when asked.
They also say the majority of the general public has been “very co-operative and shared this information willingly, to help keep officers safe.”
Through the use of the portal, Durham police were able to identify about 200 incidents that were associated with a COVID-19 test.
Another 10,500 calls had no test associated with the location or persons involved.
As per the province’s original direction, these records are meant to be deleted after the database is closed.
Durham police say, as of Friday, that process has begun and the records should be expunged in about a week.
Officers would also like to stress that the database was only used in a professional manner to keep members safe.