As the number of cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) increases globally, law enforcement agencies should be prepared for the likelihood that the virus will impact their communities. The following checklist of considerations is offered as guidance to law enforcement agencies without an established emergency operations plan, and as additional points of consideration for agencies with an established emergency operations plan.
Communicate clearly, consistently, and frequently with agency staff about changing policies and procedures.
- Prepare officers to answer questions about testing kit availability, travel restrictions, quarantine and isolation, and personal safety measures including who the public should call for such information.
- Designate a command staff leader or team to spearhead coordination with external agencies and disseminate information to agency staff.
Provide training to all employees and ensure proper utilization of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
- Educate officers on techniques to minimize exposure to infectious disease, to include immunization, use of sick leave, social distancing, and proper use of PPE such as wear, removal and disposal.
- Put together Go-Bags that include PPE for officers and first aid supplies for response to community members.
- Increase the frequency of disinfecting patrol cars, holding cells, locker rooms, break rooms, and other agency facilities to reduce exposure to the virus.
- Utilize PPE optimization strategies as access to such supplies dwindle. See CDC’s Strategies to Optimize the Supply of PPE and Equipment.
Develop a contingency plan for staffing shortages.
- Prepare for officers to call out of work out of an abundance of caution or because they or a family member is ill.
- Encourage officers to stay home if they feel ill or suspect they have COVID-19.
- Consider alternative staffing methods such as shared service provision with neighboring agencies, swing shifts, mandatory overtime, cancellation of leave and non-essential travel, and repurposing of officer flex time.
- Cross-train personnel for temporary duty reassignment to assure proper coverage of essential duties.
- Evaluate what services require an on-scene police presence versus those that can be handled by alternative means such as by phone or online.
- Organize a network of off-duty personnel who are on-call and ready to report for duty, if a shift has a critical shortage of officers.
- Offer telecommuting for less-essential staff to
ensure proper job coverage.
- Conduct load testing of IT and security systems to ensure resources can withstand a sudden increase in remote access to agency technologies.
Communicate clearly and consistently to the public as information emerges.
- Coordinate with national, state, tribal, and local authorities to ensure accurate and consistent information.
- Utilize the agency’s Public Information Officer (PIO) to provide information in a timely manner.
- Communicate to combat disinformation about COVID-19 and raise awareness of potential virus-related scam efforts.
- Highlight effective practices and communicate guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) as updates are offered.
- Provide accessible information for where people can go to be tested for COVID-19 in your community.
Coordinate with federal/national, state, tribal, and local government agencies as well as the private sector.
- Maintain consistent communications with the local health department and emergency services to keep officers informed of the most up to date response protocol.
- Coordinate with government agencies responsible for maintaining critical infrastructure (e.g. water, power, transportation) to understand their contingency plans and potential for increased burden on emergency services.
- Determine whether your agency is eligible for federal/national or state funding to aid in emergency response.
Modify standard agency procedures as needed to reflect current response needs.
- Be prepared for community requests to evolve and reflect the needs of COVID-19 patients, including but not limited to transport to hospitals, wellness checks, and delivery of critical items like medication.
- Officers may be required to enforce revised local or regional public health ordinances, such as mandatory quarantines, isolation, or travel restrictions.
- Train personnel on proper handling of the deceased. Law enforcement may find themselves attending to such scenes without the assistance of a medical examiner.
- Maintain agency response and outreach to victims of crime. Ensure sworn and non- sworn officers are aware of the increased risk victims may face due to COVID-19.
- Provide testing and coordinate treatment to limit the spread of COVID-19 within a jail or prison, if your agency oversees correctional facilities. Consider adjusting protocols to reduce the number of detainees.
Utilize incident command systems (ICS) to aid in agency response.
- Ensure your agency’s established incident command system can be activated if needed to assist in command and control, as well as the coordination of limited resources.
- Identify which roles and duties are mission critical, if your agency does not have an incident command system.
- Designated a command-level staff person to oversee and manage the overall agency response.
Create a plan for critical incident stress management.
- Address officer physical and emotional well-being. Increased pressures and continued obligations outside of work, along with the potential of loved ones falling ill, will create stress, fear, and anxiety.
- Activate support services for officers and their families.
- Encourage personnel to develop plans should they be away from their families for extended periods of time.
- Create additional awareness of employee assistance programs (EAP).
Communicate proper procedures regarding isolation and detention of community members.
- Provide information about detaining or isolating a person who is perceived as having an infectious disease, to include how to handle situations when a person fails to comply.
- Clarify when officers have the authority to enforce quarantine orders.
- Stipulate policy for how to handle arrests, potentially recommending that offenders be summoned to court instead of police headquarters.
Collect data and document response protocols for future review and assessment, if practical.
- While pandemics rarely occur, an agency can learn a lot about its emergency response by studying past efforts.
- Data collection for law enforcement may include the number of COVID-19-related calls for service, outcomes of incident command system activation, staffing numbers and call outs, health and wellness measures of officers, etc.