Measures in place to protect first responder health
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
If there is a positive side to the coronavirus isolation, it’s this: Occupied houses discourage burglaries, and lighter traffic on the roads results in fewer crashes.
As people shelter-in-place, and worry about life-changing issues, what once seemed important now seems less urgent, and takes a back seat to more pressing concerns.
Wyandotte police chief sees societal change impacting calls
Wyandotte Deputy Police Chief Archie Hamilton said his department is seeing a reduction in calls for service, which he said is likely correlated with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to school and business closures, there is less vehicle traffic, resulting in a lower number of traffic collisions,” he said. “Theoretically, we will experience fewer fights, drunk driving accidents and other alcohol-related crimes as a direct result of bar closures.”
Hamilton said people are preoccupied by the many societal changes they are experiencing during this unprecedented time.
“Things that were important a few weeks ago are now trivial in light of this pandemic, resulting in fewer complaints,” he said. “However, as we move forward and experience the greater effects of this disease on our community, it is feasible that crime will increase. Although it is impossible to predict the future, we are prepared to keep them safe.”
Hamilton said Downriver Central Dispatch, which receives 911 calls, has developed specific questions to prepare first responders to safely respond to medical emergencies. Dispatchers ask whether the person has a fever, is in respiratory distress, and whether they believe they were exposed to the coronavirus.
He said the department is also closely monitoring the health of its employees, who must immediately notify a supervisor of any medical symptoms which could be associated with the virus, and then quarantine themselves for at least 24 hours. Additional, more stringent measure would be implemented if and when a member of the department tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our officers, dispatchers and supporting staff members firmly understand the seriousness of the situation, and are erring on the side of caution,” Hamilton said.
In addition, he said police vehicles, equipment and uniforms are sanitized before and after each shift, and heavy traffic work areas are being professionally sanitized.
Hamilton said police officers wear a medical mask and latex gloves any time they enter a hospital, and are instructed to enter private residences only when absolutely necessary.
To reduce face-to-face officer contact with residents for non-emergency calls, reports can now be taken over the phone, while emergency and in-progress calls will still be met with an on-scene response and on-site investigations.
Hamilton said the department’s police officers understand the importance of discretion, and while they will be sensitive to the needs of residents under stress, they will not turn a blind-eye to illegal activity.
“We will not ignore blatant violations of the law in an effort to maintain order,” Hamilton said. “Our top priority is the well-being of each individual that resides, works and visits our city. Subsequently, all our organizational changes are aligned with achieving that goal.”
Taylor police chief addresses challenges, precautions
Taylor Police Chief John Blair said every police officer has a personal protective kit, which includes an air purifying respirator, which are similar to gas masks, and police officers have been thoroughly trained on every aspect of the equipment.
He said personnel are pragmatic about the current situation.
“We have seen some crazy things happen, and I think we realize that we have a responsibility to take care of business and keep people safe and calm,” Blair said. “They realize these are times when we need to step up, and I sense a calmness.”
He said there has not been any spikes in any particular types of crime, with no looting, and no increase in residential burglaries.
“Houses are broken into typically when there isn’t somebody home,” Blair said. “People are home, now, so we expect our home break-ins, home invasions to have gone down.”
He said their police officers are avoiding any unnecessary contact with people, but they still have to check grocery and other stores.
Blair said one of his officers told him that a local gun store had a 35- to 60-minute wait just to get up to the counter to be waited on, but he said he is not worried about the volume of gun and ammunition purchases.
“To be honest with you, there are more guns than people in this country,” Blair said. “We know that, and that doesn’t bother us at all.”
He said the city of Taylor website has a wealth of information for residents, at cityoftaylor.com.
“We are in the best country in the world, and we are going to survive this,” Blair said. “No one is going to starve, and they are going to fill the grocery stores. Everybody is going to help everybody. We’re Americans, and we are not going to let a bug get us. We’ll survive.”
He said as we learn from this, people need to remain calm and realize we will get through this. He said it is important that people educate themselves not with opinions, but with facts.
“We are not a third world country,” Blair said. “We are the leaders, and we are the best, and we are going to survive.”
Southgate has new protocols to keep officers, public safe
Southgate Public Safety Director Jeff Smith said as the Southgate Police Department continues to work hard each day to provide a high level of service to residents, they have also implemented new protocols to stop the COVID-19 spread.
He also urges residents to call 911 only for true emergencies, such as a life in danger or a crime in progress, and to call Downriver Central Dispatch, at 734-324-4438, for non-emergency calls.
Smith said dispatchers will be screening medical emergency calls differently to help protect the health of first responders.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he said the police department has suspended public fingerprinting services, as well as station tours and K-9 and SWAT demonstrations.
Smith added that while the lobby is open to visitors, and is a “safe space,” he suggests limiting face-to-face contact and to practice social distancing.
He said at this time, the department has the necessary protective equipment for first responders.
“We are working our best with vendors to have the proper safety equipment for all our personnel,” Smith said.
He said there has been no change in crime, and no significant increase in gun registrations.
Smith thanked area businesses that have dropped off food for working officers, and the local Sam’s Club for dropping off cleaning supplies at both the police and fire departments.
“We would like to thank everyone for their understanding and cooperation during this time,” Smith said.