Police Chief: Officers prioritizing arrests, taking precautions
The Portland Police Bureau is cutting back some operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but is still responding to all calls for service, especially if the caller believes their life is in danger, according to Chief Jami Resch.
During a Friday morning teleconference with reporters, Resch said officers are being dispatched to the most serious calls and encouraging others to submit reports online whenever possible. But she insisted the bureau is committed to providing the best service possible, given the rapidly evolving situation.
The public may be getting the message, Resch said. Although calls for service last week were up 6.3% compared to the same period last year, they were down 14.6% compared to the previous week.
The police are coordinating arrests with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office to reduce the population at the jails it operates. Officers are still arresting felony suspects and those required to be arrested, like domestic violence suspects. But they are only issuing citations for suspects accused of committing misdemeanor crimes.
Resch said the bureau has reduced some operations, including closing East and North precincts to the public, and cancelling daily roll calls to prevent large groups of officers from gathering at the start of their shifts. Officers are also asking some callers to come out of their homes to make in-person reports to reduce contact with other people.
Resch said that no bureau employee has tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes the potentially deadly disease to her knowledge, and that the absentee rate is currently in the 2.5% to 3% range, which is normal for this time of year.
Resch also said the bureau believes it has enough protective gear for day-to-day needs, but is monitoring its resources and will request more equipment if needed.
She also said the bureau is in close contact with all partners — including other first responders, health officials and emergency managers — to ensuer that all responses are coordinated for as long as necessary.
Resch said the bureau is not enforcing the order from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that all restaurants and bars close, although officers will notify the OLCC of any they see that are violating it. She also said the bureau does not yet have an assigned in role in enforcing any shelter-in-place that may be ordered.
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