The Centers for Disease Control has issued specific guidelines for law enforcement to help officers stay safe during the current COVID-19 public health crisis. Sadly, no segment of our population will escape this persistent virus, including our law enforcement community. Officers are already used to facing the unknown, but this invisible enemy poses an immediate threat, not only to an officer, but to the officer’s family and coworkers.
As we navigate this public health crisis, the law enforcement community must be exceptionally vigilant in keeping our first responders and their families in top physical and mental health. Already law enforcement departments across the country are beginning to see its own officers infected with COVID-19, and sadly even succumbing to the virus in some areas.
Officers should follow the same guidelines as the general public when coming into contact with others, whether responding to a call or even interacting with coworkers. These guidelines include washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet and avoid touching the face.
If soap and water are not readily available and the officer is not responding to a case involving illegal drugs, alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is an acceptable substitute. When possible, an officer should meet people outside of their homes and avoid unnecessary contact with other individuals.
When possible, encourage the public to use non-emergency numbers to submit a police report by phone, rather than sending officers to people’s homes. If an officer is responding to a call involving anyone who is suspected of having COVID-19, a trained Emergency Medical Service person should transport that individual. Officers should also wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when in contact with individuals who may have COVID-19. These may include protective masks, gloves, goggles and clothing.
Officers need to stay mentally healthy as well. That means getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol consumption and staying connected with loved ones. Spend time playing video or board games with family, participate in video calls with loved ones who are far away, take walks with family members who live in the same home and make time to pursue hobbies.
Most important, know that as a law enforcement officer, your role is vital to the safety of your community and to our nation. It is a commitment that is not made lightly and one that is greatly appreciated.