The Coronavirus disease is bringing changes in the way that all law enforcement agencies are operating. Officers across the U.S. are beginning to tailor their arrests and treatment of suspects, in an attempt to keep the individuals and themselves healthy.
Social distance is a key strategy; some departments are closing their front desks and many are asking residents to report non-emergency incidents online or over the phone.
With three LAPD officers now having tested positively for COVID-19, the agency has been taking extra precautions to deal with the spread of the virus.
All the LAPD’s community police stations have closed their front desks and walk-up service, according to this article.
“Instead of going to your local area station, we are asking the public to use unique email addresses assigned to each of our 21 area front desks…Those emails will be monitored 24/7 and routed to the proper channels.” the release states.
All patrol officers and officers likely to come into contact with infected people have been issued a kit consisting of multiple sets of gloves, a bacteria protection mask, and goggles. Officers are directed to use all three items when responding to a call or when making contact with a possible virus patient.
In addition, 50% of the LAPD´s detective workforce has been sent to the streets as uniformed patrol officers in a show of high-visibility policing of key áreas.
Chicago Police Department
The Chicago PD has said that certain crimes can be handled via citation and misdemeanor summons as opposed to physical arrest, as reported by ABC News.
“Our most important priority during #COVID19 is to safeguard Chicago. To do this, we need to support & keep officers healthy.” spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote on Twitter.
Other actions have also been taken: Police will no longer respond to conduct death investigations when there is no clear indication of a crime; units seem to have been sent to protect key locations such as supermarkets, and the CPD´s police academy training has been canceled.
Arlington County Police
“To help mitigate and reduce any unnecessary exposure and spread of #COVID-19, ACPD asks that the public report applicable non-emergency incidents using the online reporting system.”
The tweet also listed the non-emergency incidents applicable to online reporting, which include credit card fraud, theft, harassing phone calls, vandalism or vehicle tampering.
The Arlington County Police Department have also said that people who report or witness emergency incidents could be asked to step outside to speak to officers. Officers will be wearing gloves, masks or goggles.
CDC Recommendations for Law Enforcement
The CDC advises that law enforcement personnel who make in-person visits should protect themselves from COVID-19 exposure by maintaining a distance of at least six feet, if possible, practicing proper hand hygiene and not touching their faces.
According to CDC guidelines, people who might have the virus should be transported to hospitals or healthcare facilities by emergency medical service personnel, not by law enforcement.
Officers who absolutely must make contact with people who are infected, or suspected to be, need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment.