After a reserve police officer in San Jose, California, tested positive for coronavirus last week, 20 of his colleagues were quarantined. Another 10 full-time employees from the police department’s family violence unit were also asked to stay home.
“You can imagine. Just this one incident could create an issue with regards to investigations of those real high-profile domestic violence, child abuse cases,” said Sgt. Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association.
Then there’s the worst-case scenario, Kelly said, where the coronavirus pandemic depletes the police force of one of the largest cities in California. Police officials in San Jose and elsewhere warn that detectives, administrative and special operations staff may have to put on uniforms and respond to 911 calls, taking time away from major investigations.
Across the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic has confronted police departments big and small with difficult questions about how to keep a functioning police force if fewer personnel are able to report to work. Worried that officers will fall sick, departments are urging officers to limit their interactions with the public – a fundamental change in policing in the country.
“The next two to four weeks is critical in how we battle this epidemic,” said Robert Bongiorno, police chief of Bedford, Massachusetts, a town of about 14,000 people.
Bongiorno is preparing to lose nearly half of his small police force to quarantines and actual sickness. His total staff: 41.
“You can literally wipe out an entire platoon of officers if you didn’t know whether someone really tested positive or not,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that conducts research and consulting for agencies. “Having someone sit at home for 14 days, two weeks, is a huge loss for a department. Huge. This is keeping officers safe and in service.”
Article from USA Today