While the general public is trying to make sense of the everchanging landscape that COVID-19 has created, law enforcement officials are also trying to keep up.
According to Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, officers are following the protocols that have been established by San Joaquin County Public Health Officials that are becoming increasingly more restrictive as cases of the highly-contagious virus continue to spread by community transmission throughout the county.
Just this past week the City of Lathrop announced that it would be closing portions of its parks – playground and exercise equipment as well as basketball courts – since there is no way to disinfect them after use to prevent the spread of the virus. Later in the same night the county announced new protocols that effectively closed parks throughout the county as the number of cases mount.
The developments mean that Biedermann and his officers are walking the high-wire between maintaining order and enforcing the new guidelines – they follow the protocols set by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office – and maintaining a sense of calm among the people they come into contact with.
At this point, he said, officers are using education rather than enforcement when correcting potential violations.
“We aren’t forcing anything at this point – it’s more like educating them about the need to shelter in place and practice social distancing,” Biedermann said. “We haven’t had any problems – when we remind folks about what the guidelines are then they comply.
“We’ve really worked to scale back a lot of our special assignments and deploy those resources where they are needed like infrastructure protection, patrolling larger shopping centers where we can maintain order and ensure that peace is maintained at those businesses, and checking up on city parks.”
Because of the nature of the job, Biedermann said that his officers are taking all of the precautions they can to protect themselves, the public, other officers, and their families from the virus that has already killed three people in San Joaquin County.
Contingency plans are in place for officers that may be exposed while on-duty so that they can stay at local hotels during their quarantine period so that they don’t have to bring the virus home to their families, and personal protective equipment like gloves and even masks have become part of the standard equipment that officers utilize while tackling the streets.
As stories continue to mount about first responders who are quarantined and the threat that the virus poses is crippling critical infrastructure and personnel, Biedermann said that everybody in his office is doing the best that they can to stay healthy while at the same time maintaining a calm and orderly presence in the community that they serve.
“We’re being as precautious as we can – this is a job where you are really dealing with the unknown every day,” Biedermann said. “It’s unreasonable to wear protective personal equipment the entire shift because we’re coming into contact with lots of different people, so we’re trying to be safe and efficient about where and when we use it so that we can keep our officers and the public protected the best that we can.
“We’re trying to protect our people and protect the public, and we don’t want to be a transmitter and we also don’t want our guys coming down sick either. If we start losing officers to quarantine, we don’t have very people lined up behind them ready to step in.”
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