Manteca Police officers — just like everyone else — are expected to wear masks when interacting with the public as part of the department’s COVID-19 protocols.
That may not always be possible, however, as exceptions are made due to safety concerns, communication issues, or an emergency situation requiring swift action to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect, or destruction of evidence.
How department staff is dealing with the COVID-19 health emergency was questioned this week by a citizen that called for police assistance with an issue she was having with a child.
The woman, who said she had an underlying condition, contends she asked one of the officers to put on a face mask while he was talking with her and he did not do so.
She said a supervising sergeant had contacted her wanting to know if she wished to file a complaint. The woman has not done so but she has raised questions in discussions with other Manteca residents regarding her concern that police are not doing their part to check the spread of COVID.
“First, I would like to say that here at the police department, we encourage any complaints regarding the conduct of our personnel be brought forward for us to investigate,” Interim Police Chief Mike Aguilar indicated in an email. “We are accountable to ourselves, but more importantly we remain accountable to those we serve. Even if a complaint does not constitute misconduct, we take all complaints seriously and look at where we can improve as a department or make any needed changes.”
After the health emergency was declared in March 2020, a directive was issued to all police personnel about wearing masks within the department and while out in public.
Police department supervisors have also been directed that if they see an officer interacting with someone from the public without a mask, then the supervisor is to inquire with the officer the reason why a mask was not utilized and determine the circumstances.
Generally officers do not ask those that they contact to put on a mask. Officers have been instructed to follow the existing Centers for Disease Control CDC guidelines provided to them throughout the pandemic.
Aguilar said the department continues to advocate for physical distancing both in public and within the police station.
The mask requirement and other protocols help protect police personnel and the public as well. Equally important it works toward reducing the potential for the department being hit with manpower shortages. That’s because if tracing of those that test positive shows COVID-19 had the potential to have spread to other personnel, the department is forced to quarantine those impacted.
Manteca Police personnel have missed work during the past 13 months due to contracting COVID-19 or related quarantine issues. There have been 27 positive cases. Those with positive results as well as another 28 that had significant expose based on tracing were quarantined. All police employees have recovered and returned to work. There are 105 department employees.
Day-to-day precaution protocols in place for the past 13 months include:
*providing all personnel with disinfection materials and personal protective equipment such as masks, goggles, and gloves.
*limiting in-person, department meetings when physical distancing is not possible or if precautions cannot be taken.
*encouraging the use of telephone or online reports in place of officers responding to service calls if an incident allows for such a response.
*materials for disinfecting the work stations and common areas for patrol officers such as the Report Writing Room and Briefing Room along with patrol vehicles. All police employees have access to the same materials for their work stations.
*disinfectant materials are used in patrol vehicles that are utilized after transporting a person. The same materials are also utilized in the booking facility for decontaminating the holding and processing areas for arrestees.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com