Ocean County Police Chiefs alter response methods amid Covid-19 pandemic
As the amount of positive coronavirus cases continue to rise in New Jersey, Police Chiefs in Ocean County are coming up with alternate response methods to keep officers safe as well as residents.
President of the Ocean County Police Chiefs Association and Harvey Cedars Police Chief Robert Burnaford says law enforcement's goal is to protect and serve the community but in order to do that police chiefs need to make sure they're protecting the men and women who work in their department.
"All of the chiefs in the county and state and throughout are faced with the same dilemma with keeping everybody safe but we have to keep the men and women in our respective agencies safe as well," Burnaford said.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many police departments in Ocean County have now modified their patrol procedures.
"Some of those modifications include taking reports over the phone," Chief Burnaford said. "Some of the calls for service that don't require an on-scene investigation or there's evidence to be collected, we encourage everyone to call their local police departments and an officer will be able to take all that information over the phone."
To determine which calls warrant a response and which ones can be handled online or over the phone, the dispatchers in the Ocean County Sheriff Department's 911 center have a set list of questions that they'll even repeat to make sure the caller clarifies what's going on and if they have any symptoms related to coronavirus.
"When someone calls 911 or calls for police or EMS, the questions are being asked prior to law enforcement getting there if not once, twice or three times to ensure that the officer going to that call has all the information they need to handle it accordingly," Burnaford said.
Should police have to respond to such a call in person, they will be supplied with gloves and a mask to wear to lower the risk of exposure to the virus which the person the officer is responding to help may not be showing any of the Covid-19 symptoms at the time.
"Officers are going to try and protect themselves as much as possible, but unfortunately an officer may be exposed to the virus" Burnaford said. "Most departments are now putting orders out for the officer to report that or they're being asked to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14-days."
The modifications to the patrol procedures are the result of continued meetings recently with police chiefs in Ocean County discussing ways to keep officers safe.
"One of the concerns, of many, is we don't know what the next hour is going to bring, we don't know what tonight is going to bring, we don't know what tomorrow is going to bring so we need to continue being ahead of this," Burnaford said. "We can't react, we need to be three or four steps ahead of what's to come."
"The cooperation among all the chiefs and the information sharing has been absolutely fantastic and beneficial to everyone," Burnaford said.
Chief Burnaford says police are still there for residents just as much as before the virus began to spread and if the situation warrants an on scene presence...they'll be there.
"We want residents to know that we're still here for them so if an officer needs to respond, whether it's a crime of violence or against any other persons, we will be there for them," Burnaford said.
Here are some of the new methods coming into place across Ocean County.
In Manchester, police officers are being designated to take calls and reports daily from 7:00 am until 5:00 pm.
In Toms River, residents are being encourages to submit reports online through a system that allows you to do so immediately and then print out a copy of the police report for free. Police will then review the case report you've uploaded.
In Berkeley, you can call the department or similar to Toms River you can submit a police report on the township police department's website.
In Jackson, police officers are taking all non-emergency calls telephonically. If you need to make a report of a non-emergent nature, your information will be taken and an officer will be detailed to call you back for the report.
In Lacey, you can report incidents online to police who will review the submissions and respond accordingly.