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COVID-19 impacting law enforcement operations

Updated: Apr. 19, 2020 at 3:13 PM CDT
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LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - For the past few weeks, the community has been taking extra precautions to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Law enforcement agencies are also taking extra precautions, but they have to continue interacting with the community and try to balance protecting their officers and protecting the public.

“Well ultimately, how to limit contact with the motoring public is voluntary compliance by the motoring public. We are still out here, we’re still patrolling,” said Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Trooper Michael Carswell.

“We still have to go and answer the calls that we get and we’re having to also go out and check businesses and patrol neighborhoods,” said Montgomery Police Captain Regina Duckett.

With a job that demands interaction with the public, different agencies have different ways of protecting themselves.

“We went to having some officers here at the police department taking reports over the telephone, giving advice over the telephone. We still do respond to any call that needs an immediate police presence,” said Opelika Police Captain Shane Healey. “We’re definitely still responding but traditionally a large amount of our police work is of a delayed type situation. So it really has enabled us to cut down on some of that citizen contact.”

Healey says that they are also doubling down on their cleaning efforts.

“We’ve had a lot of fabulous people in the in the community that have donated, some civic organizations that have donated hand sanitizer to us. So we have plenty of that. Hopefully, our officers won’t have to transport somebody, but if they do have to make a physical arrest, which unfortunately sometimes still is needed, we’re working on trying to sanitize the back seats of the police cars you know with Lysol type products,” Healey said. “It’s just kind of a combination of things that we’re trying to do. You know, some are bigger ideas, some are smaller ideas and sometimes the best ideas are the small ones, but anything at all that we can think to try to limit contact. You know, keep that social distance or whatever we have to do to try to keep our folks safe.”

Montgomery police are now holding meetings over the phone.

“Any meetings that we have, we’re doing it by teleconference instead of actually having everybody in one room. Our officers, when they enter the building, we are making sure that they are okay so we are checking temperatures and things like that to make sure we don’t have anybody with any symptoms," Duckett said. “We do have additional protocols in place. We all were issued bags that have masks. So we’re keeping masks on us at all times. We have gloves; we have hand sanitizer. Anytime an officer has interaction with the public we do wear these masks.”

Authorities say that they are wearing extra protective equipment in an effort to keep themselves and the public safe.

“Safety is our top priority. That’s for everyone, that’s for including folks on the roadways, in the waterways, and the general public, as well as the troopers and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency staff,” Carswell said.

Officials say the biggest thing that you can do to help law enforcement is stay at home.

Law enforcement agencies are also patrolling for groups of 10 or more that are not following social distancing guidelines.

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