Law enforcement and corrections agencies all over the country are modifying their policies and practices in response the coronavirus pandemic. Public safety agencies bravely continue to serve the public and remain on the front lines of the pandemic battle. Santa Cruz County has been fortunate so far in having few confirmed cases of coronavirus; however, we must be prepared for an increased number of cases. Moreover, if we have learned anything from what we have seen around the globe, it is that preventing infections is paramount as is a swift response to confirmed cases using isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing to stop a few cases from becoming a serious outbreak. We know that police officers, corrections officers, firefighters, and medical emergency responders are at high risk. Keeping them safe and healthy is a top priority.
As your Sheriff, my pandemic response strategy would have several key components:
- Protocols for using personal protective equipment when interacting with others in the field, at the Sheriff’s Office, and at the detention center.
- Requiring employees who develop symptoms that could be coronavirus to stay at home followed by testing and contact tracing as warranted.
- Limiting in-person responses to calls for service as much as feasible without compromising service
- Suspending departmental group gatherings such as training sessions, roll call briefings, and staff meetings.
- Restricting travel for all Sheriff’s Office staff.
- Limiting public access to police and corrections facilities.
- Having employees work from home and advising employees at work to practice physical distancing as much as practicable.
- Accommodating the needs of working parents in the department in light of school closures.
- Attending to the physical and emotional wellness of employees, recognizing the stress of working in a public safety setting at this time.
I want to thank all the members of the Sheriff’s Office and public safety agencies throughout the county for their service and dedication. Stay safe!