WASHINGTON, DC – During a phone call on March 20th with Trump officials, a police chief implored that testing be redirected from NBA players over to first responders in terms of priority.
Not only is it a plea of common sense, but also one to serve the common good.
— The Hill (@thehill) March 23, 2020
Police Chief John Carli of the Vacaville Police Department in California, and other police officials, were speaking with White House and Homeland Security officials about the hurdles of gaining access to test kits for COVID-19.
The hour-long call was orchestrated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to address the ongoing pandemic.
Chief Carli voiced an appeal about testing accessibility for police and other first responders, saying:
“We’re going to lose our first responders; and we have to, at a national level, get support to the local level.
Stop testing NBA players and start testing our first responders. Somebody needs to make a decision at a very high level so that we’re not having to have these decisions made through backchannels because you know people at the local hospital.”
— Mary Rose G. B. (@mare_se) March 23, 2020
Also on the call was a New Jersey State Police official who explained, due to patient privacy laws, first responders are unable to know where specific cases may be active:
“We’ve already had a case where a positive test was out breaking the quarantine, driving around with just a mask on, in their car.”
Chief William Brooks of the Norwood Police Department, based out of Massachusetts, explained that the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the department’s focus:
“Our mission has completely changed from what we were doing three weeks ago. Our core mission at this point is not only public service but sustainability. I need the police department to be operational and healthy 60 days from now.”
The words of Chief Brooks paint a grim, but authentic portrait of how policing has and can continue to be affected by COVID-19. If a significant portion of the workforce gets suddenly depleted, what are departments supposed to do?
— Sandra Spagnoli (@Chief_Spagnoli) March 23, 2020
Since most quarantines for suspected COVID-19 cases last a period of 14 days or more, there could be serious ramifications if measures aren’t adopted quickly.
That’s not even addressing the possibility of confirmed cases requiring hospitalization, ICU admission, or worse – death.
Chief Carli also chimed in on that note:
“If we’re quarantining [our] people for 14 days … we’re going to lose our first responders.”
The chief also explained that in the interest of officer safety, they’ve essentially stopped all traffic stops within his city:
“We really told our people not to do traffic enforcement at all.”
Chief Carli’s mentioning of said lack of traffic enforcement isn’t hard to believe, seeing as how several police departments across the nation have ceased most types of enforcement for non-violent offenses.
Police officials on the call also noted the growing concerns over “hoarding scenarios” playing out at grocery stores, and several businesses having been temporarily shut down to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
There were questions of whether the federal government would interfere with state and local enforcement of things like quarantines and curfews, which some locals have not been ecstatic about.
An attorney who was present on the call tried to offer some solace on that notion:
“We’re in unprecedented times, [but] the Supreme Court is … not going to get involved in overturning local or state decision in this matter, unless the Constitution is being violated and that violation is something that is not reasonable.”
While there is likely not going to be federal pushback against states enforcing certain practices like various shutdowns or social distancing mandates, Chief Brooks explained enforcement is going to still be difficult to pull off:
“We will be asked to enforce orders but not make physical arrests; and it will come down to the amazing skills of cops to make that happen.”
Dr. Alex Eastman of the Dallas Police Department offered to express some optimism in light of the trying times:
“There’s going to be a rough few weeks, maybe [even] a couple of months. But we’re going to get through this.”
Law Enforcement Today is hoping that resolution and respite come quick for the police departments having to confront the hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some solutions will come easier than others, but our country will persevere.
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