Tigard police take extra precautions to keep officers safe from COVID-19
With concerns about exposure to COVID-19 high everywhere, Tigard police are taking extra precautions when it comes to contact with the public. That includes having officers use personal protection equipment such as face masks and gloves or whatever makes them feel comfortable when needed.
"For us, it's defiantly not business as usual in the sense of what people are used to but how can we still give a level of confidence and make our presence known while getting ourselves safe and keeping everyone else we come in contact with safe," Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said during a Zoom interview Wednesday.
As far as traffic stops are concerned, McAlpine said officers have the opportunity to put on protective masks if they choose although they also want to make sure they can be heard clearly during any encounter with the public.
"If they can keep a six-foot distance, then they won't even put on that mask," she said.
According to the chief, the department recently acquired ponchos because protective Tyvek suits are hard to come by, however, those are reserved mostly for incidents where they may have to accompany the medical examiner in helping with a deceased person.
"The hospitals, the nurses, and the fire department are going to get (the Tyvek suits) first, then maybe even EMS. We have some … those are pretty limited but if we don't need quite that level (of protection, the ponchos give) some other coverage we can use."
To help police out with protecting themselves, the department now has everything from hand sanitizer (blue bottles of the homemade substance donated by Tigard's Rose City Distillery), to cleaning solutions to spray aerators to hold sanitizing chemicals. Some of those sprays are used to decontaminant officers after a call or to sanitize a patrol car.
McAlpine said the department has also seen donations of COVID-19 prevention items, which helps to keep the 67 sworn officers and administrators safe during the pandemic
"We've had a tremendous outpouring of community support," she said. "Somebody, bless their heart, made homemade masks." McAlpine estimated that about 30 fabric masks were given to the police department, some of which have American flags and other decorations on them.
McAlpine said triage of calls for service begins with police dispatch operators who ask callers if anyone in the household is sick or has COVID-19-like symptoms. That way, they know if they have to wear more extensive protective gear when responding to an incident.
"All of those things we put in place to lessen the physical contact as much as possible," said McAlpine. "Now on those emergency calls or on those 'in-progress' we don't get that luxury."
While there was an initial perception that Tigard burglaries had increased during COVID-19, McAlpine said a close look at March incidents showed they were about the same as usual.
"Right now, I think, we have a heightened sense of awareness so we're doing a lot of security checks on businesses that we know aren't being occupied and so I think we're looking at those just as we're looking at domestic calls, which are slightly up. But again, nothing … astronomical," the chief said. "Actually our calls for service are down a little bit and most of that is we don't have the traffic accidents, we don't have the parking complaints and we don't have our abandoned autos."
She said credit goes to the Tigard community for adhering to the governor's order of social distancing and staying at home.
In addition, McAlpine said she appreciates the fact that Tigard police did not have to get involved in reminding business owners they needed to shut down once the governor announced her executive order to stay home, issued several weeks ago.
With the nice weather ahead, McAlpine said she knows there will be lots of people outside and that everyone needs to be especially careful to watch out for pedestrians.
Despite the more cautious approach to dealing with police calls, McAlpine said her message to the community is this: "We're here for you when you need us and we'll come and we'll check on everybody."
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