NewsPhoenix Metro NewsCentral Phoenix News


Valley police departments adjusting to COVID-19 with new questions, distancing measures

Posted at 9:21 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 01:24:40-04

Their motto is to protect and serve, but police officers across Arizona are now worried as much about protection from COVID-19 as they are about dangerous criminals.

So far, ABC15 has learned four Phoenix police officers have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The department has 3,667 sworn officers though, so it's only about one tenth of one percent.

"It’s such a new norm for all of us," said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a spokesperson with the Phoenix Police Department.

The new normal includes new questions from dispatchers across the Valley.

1) Have you traveled anywhere in the last 14 days? If so, where?

2) Have you or anyone in your household experienced COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, trouble breathing, or a cough?

"And if any of those questions came back as 'yes,' then there was going to be a universal precaution that was placed on that call," said Sgt. Fortune.

"They might wear a mask, some gloves, they might keep their distance a little bit more," said Detective Jason Flam, with the Mesa Police Department.

Police officers typically try to see whoever they are talking to face-to-face, to get a better read on the situation, but many reports are now being taken over the phone or submitted online.

"If someone has something stolen, a lot of times we can take that over the phone and investigate from a far," said Det. Flam.

"Is there evidence that was left at the scene? Is there something that we can go and collect? Or is this something that you can just report online or we can take it telephonically," said Sgt. Fortune. "Make sure that we're taking those opportunities to create that distance."

Distance is exceedingly important now, as many departments are rationing their personal protective equipment, like N-95 masks, due to the nationwide shortage.

"We’re not wearing the mask right now at all times, but we might go to that in the future," said Det. Flam.

Scottsdale police are requiring their officers to wear cloth surgical masks.

Mesa and Phoenix police say the surgical masks are a recommendation they are passing along from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"They can, if they choose to, wear [the surgical mask]," said Sgt. Fortune.

Mesa police is checking every employee's temperature before their shift, and holding their briefings outside and far apart. Right now, Flam says the department has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19.

"We adapt and overcome. We don’t have the luxury of turning away business. We still have to do our jobs," said Det. Flam.

Departments say they are still committed to showing up for any and all emergencies, and the extra dispatch questions and protective gear are not affecting their response times.

FULL SECTION: Everything you need to know about coronavirus