Police officers swear to protect and serve the communities they are in. Making sure people are safe is one of the biggest duties of an officer. This commitment can mean putting others safety ahead of their own. During the Covid-19 pandemic police officers have had to find ways to keep those in the community safe while continuing to do their job.
While many people picture police chasing down criminals, much of their job is community work. This includes welfare checkups, noise complaints, psychiatric situations, general community policing and more. From July 18th to September 18th the Kent Ohio Police Department had a total of 3939 incidents of which 1402 incidents were community related calls.
During this recent pandemic, the CDC has stated that personal protection equipment, like masks, help slow down and eliminate the spread of Covid-19. With over 30% of their calls being community related, the Kent Police Department are working hard on making sure they keep themselves and the community they serve safe. Chief Nicholas Shearer explains that police are trying to limit contact whenever possible by taking details over the phone and pulling over less people unless it is absolutely necessary. “If we could avoid physical arrests we did, and still to this day we are avoiding physical arrests when we can.” said Shearer. The judges in the area have also told police to limit the amount of people they send to court, so the department is finding new and different ways to be able to do their jobs without putting anyone at risk.
Police on patrol have N95 masks to wear at all times during an incident as well as face shields and gloves if needed. The department has been fortunate enough to receive grants from the state for PPE as well as community donated supplies, Officer Kyle Auckland always assess the situation when putting on extra PPE. “We are going to use a mask in the very beginning. Whether I enhance my PPE, gloves, a face shield, would be determined from what information or intelligence we’re getting on that call.” said Auckland.
For Auckland, and the police department as a whole, this pandemic is something they never imaged would happen during their careers. “In this profession a lot of things we do are trained behavior so when you throw something new in the mix it throws us for a whirlwind.” said Auckland. Despite things being new, the department is taking big strides to continue and maintain a safe community. Inside their building some staff members, such as those in charge of parking compliance, have had extra cleaning tasks added to their jobs in order to maintain a clean and safe working environment for anybody who has to be inside the department building. These staff members have been put in charge of making sure common touch areas are cleaned multiple times a day. The department has also benefited by having a partnership with the company Purell where they try out new cleaning products for the company. This ranges from different soap dispensers to cleaning products, all supplied by the company for free. This trial partnership has helped the department get the supplies needed to stay safe since they are not having to search around to find different products.
In the patrol cars cleanliness is taken more serious than ever. Auckland explains how extra measure are being taken to stay safe while on patrol. “When I come to work, I obviously have to make sure I clean my cruiser, so step one right out of the gate as before cruiser setup was relatively simple, a couple checks here and there, done. Now were wiping down the cruiser, wiping down anything we’re touching, making sure our masks are ready to go. So, we’re adding steps or layers to our day.” said Auckland.
Despite all the cleaning the department is still focused on doing their jobs and keeping the community safe. “If somebody is in the middle of a crisis, they need us for emergency response. Whether it be health and safety related or whatever the case may be, they need us now. So, to try and make demands or put guidelines on our response, time is not of the essence to do that for the most part.” said Shearer “It is one of those things where we’ve all agreed to take this job knowing that it comes with some risks. It’s unfortunate sometimes I don’t think any of us thought that this pandemic we are seeing in 2020 was going to present itself in our careers. It certainly wasn’t on the forefront of our minds with what risks we may face when coming to work some day. It is a reality of what we do for a living and there are certain risks we have to take.”