‘We need to be healthy:’ Local law enforcement agencies work to dodge exposure amid outbreak

Coronavirus

HARTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact day-to-day life, some law enforcement agencies are adapting to stay safe.

The Hartsville Police Department is one of those agencies.

“If there’s a situation they go into where somebody’s known to be sick, it’s reported they may have the coronavirus… they can use this equipment in addition to what they normally wear,” Lieutenant Mark Blair said. He showed News13 the department’s stockpile of safety gear.

He showed us their supply of masks, gloves, sanitizer and other means of staying clean.

Blair said the department is ensuring officers are responding to calls prepared.

“We’re also asking the officers to have spare clothes, spare uniforms with them just in case they get exposed and have to change in the field,” Blair explained.

The department has also changed how it handles non-emergency calls.

“If it’s not property or life safety involved- like you need a police officer right now- then we’re asking people to call us,” he said. “Dispatch will route that phone call to an officer.”

He said it’s a way for the department to limit unnecessary interaction and therefore potential exposure to the virus.

He emphasized the department is still serving the public at the same capacity despite the changes.

Other agencies are also taking steps in light of the outbreak.

Florence police, for instance, says officers may request to meet outside of homes or businesses for non-emergency situations. It also may take non-emergency reports over the phone.

Florence police is also suspending some meetings and courtesy programs temporarily.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety issued the following statement to News13 about how it is addressing the outbreak:

SCDPS law enforcement is committed to providing a high level of service to our state’s citizens and visitors as well as providing assistance to our fellow law enforcement as needs may arise during this COVID-19 crisis. As we perform this important mission, our goal is to balance our public safety duties with ensuring our law enforcement officers are protected. SCDPS has disseminated information frequently to our employees from SCDHEC regarding the importance of common sense measures such as thorough hand-washing, properly covering coughs and staying home when sick and will continue to follow the guidance of health officials regarding public contact and social distancing measures. This is especially important for our troopers and officers who are in frequent contact with the public. We will continue to assess the need for any additional personal protective equipment or other protective measures for our law enforcement divisions as the situation evolves.  

South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Hartsville police’s efforts- Lt. Blair says- are all in hopes to keep every officer healthy.

“We need to be healthy so we can continue to offer the same critical services that the people depend on every day,” he said. “So you know if you get in a car crash… that we will be there to help you.”

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