In light of the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many government organizations have had to adjust the way that they operate to ensure safety for their employees. Numerous government offices were shuttered following “stay at home” orders. However, many law enforcement agencies and other emergency services had to stay active despite the threat of infection.
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus through the ranks, law enforcement officers (LEOs) and other public safety personnel started to “work from home” for the office portion of their jobs. However, this created new challenges for law enforcement agencies that would normally coordinate efforts for LEOs before shifts at in-person briefings.
How Coronavirus Impacted Law Enforcement
Unfortunately, coronavirus affects LEOs just as readily as it affects everyone else. According to an article by Time, as of April 2, 2020, “over 1000 New York City Police Department (NYPD) personnel have tested positive for the coronavirus… Five members of the department have died.” An article by the Center for American Progress, published on April 14, put the number of infected NYPD officers at over 2,000.
Police departments and law enforcement agency personnel still need to interact with the public to enforce stay at home orders and to ensure that individuals and businesses are following curfews and other restrictions. One interesting side-effect of the coronavirus outbreak on law enforcement has been a noticeable drop in crime rates. In the Times article, Commissioner Dermot Shea of the NYPD was credited with saying that “crime rates have dropped significantly since people started staying indoors, minimizing the need for foot patrols.”
So, while enforcement needed to continue, this particular law enforcement agency was able to cut back a bit on foot patrols—which is an activity that puts officers at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
To further help counter the risks of catching the coronavirus from infected people, many police departments attempted to supply LEOs with masks and gloves—but protective wear was in short supply for much of the outbreak, and it wasn’t effective for protecting officers from suspects who would spit, cough, or outright assault them.
Being able to have officers and support staff work remotely instead of everyone having to report to the precinct office helped to prevent the spread of the pandemic. However, working from home to do paperwork, coordinate patrols remotely, and perform other tasks can take some adjustment.
What Law Enforcement Agencies Can Do to Be Ready for Remote Work
How can a law enforcement agency prepare for remote work so that they can protect officers and key staff from infectious disease risks without severely impacting their ability to protect public safety and order? Here are a few things that law enforcement agencies and other public safety organizations can do to be ready for remote work:
- Ensure All Personnel Have Access to Communication Solutions. Communication is the basis of any successful remote work strategy. If officers and key staff are going to work from home to file reports and coordinate patrols, they need to be able to communicate with ease. Verifying that LEOs and other staff have active cell phones, internet, and other communication tools is vital for ensuring that they’ll work together efficiently.
- Conduct Video Conferences When Possible. While not a replacement for an in-person meeting, using video conferencing solutions can help law enforcement agency staff be more active and engaged during remote meetings. It also helps encourage people to uphold department standards for maintaining hygiene and appearance, since everyone will be able to see one another.
- Update Emergency Contact Information. Officers may need to be called in for extra shifts to cover for coworkers who get sick or need to take vacations. Additionally, loved ones may need to be contacted if a LEO is injured or worse in the line of duty. Making sure that emergency contact information (names, addresses, and phone numbers) is up to date can be incredibly important for a law enforcement agency working remotely.
- Use Telematics Solutions to Coordinate Officer Patrols. With numerous officers being quarantined in each jurisdiction because of coronavirus infections, police departments need to cover their jurisdictions with fewer officers than ever before. Using telematics solutions, like GPS tracking, can help law enforcement agencies make more efficient use of patrol vehicles to cover a larger area with fewer officers.
Telematics and Public Safety
Telematics solutions, like GPS tracking, can be incredibly useful for police departments even in normal conditions. In situations where officers and dispatchers are working from home because of a pandemic, telematics can be crucial.
Some of the reasons to use telematics in law enforcement include:
- Demonstrating Accountability. Tools like body cameras have long been a popular solution for law enforcement agencies to demonstrate how their officers follow rules and regulations on the job. GPS tracking devices can help to further improve public perception of police activities by adding even more transparency for police activities.
- Improving Speed of Response. Telematics data on traffic patterns and patrol car locations can be vital for improving speed of response to emergency calls. Additionally, when LEOs call for backup, GPS data can be used to ensure that it arrives exactly where it’s needed.
- Enabling Bait Car Operations. GPS tracking devices are a critical component of bait car operations that catch car thieves and deter crime. With GPS tracking, officers can follow car thieves from outside of their line of sight—reducing the chances of thieves escaping once they’ve taken the bait.
- Improving Motor Pool Management. Telematics solutions make it easy to track important vehicle statistics like total number of miles driven and time since last service. Knowing this information makes it easier to create and follow preventative maintenance plans that keep police vehicles operating in top condition (and avoid costly breakdowns).
Need more help equipping your department with the tools it needs to coordinate patrols and track officer activities in the field? Reach out to Rastrac today to learn more about how you can use fleet telematics for law enforcement!
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