Police adapt to crisis: Officers take extra precautions dealing with public

Senior Cpl. Lewis Simms with the Cheswold Police Department sanitizes his police cruiser. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CHESWOLD — In this age of social distancing, police must sometimes go hands on.

Entering a home may be necessary, though not preferred and transporting a suspect requires close quarters as well.

In that case officers “don masks and gloves and only spend as much time as necessary in the residence or dealing with the person in close proximity,” Cheswold Chief Chris Workman said.

In Felton, the town’s volunteer fire company uses a disinfectant spraying machine to clean police vehicles after transports, Cpl. Christopher Guild said.

Law enforcement agencies statewide are taking those and other precautions to stay healthy as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Even then, there’s no guarantee of avoiding a potential health emergency.

“We know that there are those out there who do not know they have the virus or those who simply won’t tell us that they do,” Chief Workman said.

In the past month, around 20 municipal officers statewide self-quarantined as a precaution and none were diagnosed with COVID-19. A Delaware State Police trooper contracted the coronavirus and has since returned to full duty.

Police departments known to have officers self-quarantine include Dover, Laurel, Georgetown, Rehoboth Beach, Cheswold, Blades, Harrington and Delmar.

“Overall, our community has been compliant with the State of Emergency issued by Governor Carney,” said Georgetown Police Department Det. Joey Melvin, adding that helps officers do their jobs safely.

His department has surgical masks to place on the faces of detainees/prisoners while they are transported to a detention area.

While Camden officers are committed to social distancing when possible, “unfortunately our job doesn’t always allow them to do that.
In cases where they can not distance masks, gloves, and sanitizing measures are available and used,” Chief Marcus Whitney said.
Police continue responding to complaints, but set conditions when possible.

“We are asking people who call for the police to meet us outside if that is possible to discuss the nature of their call, or even take their report over the phone,” Seaford Cpl. Eric Chambers said.

The current new normal is sinking in, Chief Workman said.

“I think that over the last few weeks officers are now unconsciously maintaining distance and practicing safe habits,” he said.

On the lookout

In addition to their typical patrol and enforcement, officers are continuously on the lookout for gatherings that may violate safe practice orders issued by Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency.

“We constantly keep an eye out to ensure people are following the guidelines,” Wyoming Chief Martin Willey said. “The more we follow them the greater the chance we can reduce the spread of this virus.”

Harrington Chief Norman Barlow echoed that approach. “Most of our time is being spent patrolling the local businesses and the rest of the city to make sure everyone is doing what they have to do to stay in compliance,” he said.

Dover Police officers assemble in front of the Kohl’s department store on a Friday in late March.

According to Smyrna Cpl. Brian Donner, “We are frequently responding to calls for service where folks feel groups are too large or not spaced out enough etc.

“The vast majority of times when we respond we find that there are no violations.”

Smyrna Police partnered with Painted State distillery to buy thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer, some of which Cpl. Donner said were provided to residents at no cost.

Education is, of course, part of the job.

When the Seaford School District provides students lunches in a local park Monday through Friday, “Everyone seems cognizant of their social distancing,” Blades Chief Paul Anthony said.

Frankford Chief Laurence Corrigan said there’s been strong compliance throughout his town, at area churches and other gathering spots.
Some juveniles gathered at times in the pandemic’s early stages as Laurel schools were not in session.

“Our officers took the time to explain to the juveniles the seriousness of the pandemic and the reason they could not gather in large groups,” Chief Danny Wright said.

“The officers also explained social distancing to the juveniles.”

In Selbyville, “We have limited the number of officers/staff inside the facility at any one time,” Chief Ward Collins said.

“Anyone brought inside, has limited movement inside the facility, and area is cleaned and wiped down when they leave.”

Crash numbers detailed

On Friday, Delaware State Police reported that while crash numbers dropped in February and March this year compared to 2019, the impairment-involved case rose. Fatal crashes this year have risen in every category except bicycle-related.

In a news release, DSP offered safety tips for motorists and pedestrians and noted troopers “continue to be dedicated to keeping Delaware’s roadways safe and the number of crashes and impaired drivers down.

“We will continue to stop, cite, and educate those who violate the law to prevent injuries and deaths.”

DSP noted safety tips were available at midatlantic.aaa.com/coronavirus.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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