April 1, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


For this issue, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler interviewed two police chiefs who, unfortunately, have tested positive for the coronavirus: Aurora, IL Chief Kristen Ziman and Detroit Chief James Craig.

Both chiefs are continuing to work while recovering, and here they share lessons learned while working under these unusual circumstances. PERF is grateful to Chief Craig and Chief Ziman for telling us their stories.


Aurora, IL Police Chief Kristen Ziman:

Plan for the Worst. I’m Anticipating a Storm Ahead.

Wexler: Chief, how are you feeling today?

Chief Kristen Ziman: I’m much better. I’ve been sick since March 15, was tested on the 21st, and didn’t receive the results until the 27th, so I’d been sick for almost two weeks by the time I was diagnosed. I feel like I’m emerging from it and am on the mend.

Wexler: What were your symptoms?

Chief Ziman: When I first became sick, I thought I was just getting a head cold. My first symptom was a pounding headache, then a cough started, and then a fever. Fortunately, my fever stayed relatively low, and I didn’t have any respiratory issues, other than the cough.

We had spent a lot of time establishing contingency plans when we first heard reports about the coronavirus. The first level of our contingency plan was to try to “flatten the curve” in our own organization. We instituted a digital roll call. We closed down the report-writing room and all the other places people congregate. And our command staff stayed away from everyone.

When we implemented the second level of our contingency plan, we sent home anyone who could work from home. And we had our investigations bureau work from home on two-week rotations. So half our detectives work from home for two weeks, and then the two groups switch.

The third level of our contingency plan was to shift our patrol officers from our normal 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. While on 12-hour shifts, officers work in three separate groups, and they only work 7 out of every 21 days. That allows us to give them 11 or 12 days off in a row, when they can reenergize and, if needed, get healthy.

All those contingencies were already in place by the time I became sick, so I just had to conduct meetings with my command staff and city officials by conference call or video call.

Wexler: How has your command staff functioned while you’ve been sick?

Chief Ziman: My deputy chief was sick as well. We had the same symptoms and were tested for COVID-19 on the same day, but his test came back negative while mine came back positive. We also have one commander who has been to the emergency room three times and is still very ill.

The three remaining healthy commanders are working at the station, while my deputy chief and I stay connected remotely.

Wexler: Your mayor has tested positive for COVID-19 as well, correct?

Chief Ziman: Yes. The irony is that as we were working together to plan how we would protect our employees and our community, we were exposing ourselves to the virus. The mayor and I have been able to stay involved and collaborate through conference calls, and I’ve still been able to make decisions.

Wexler: What advice do you have for other chiefs?

Chief Ziman: Plan for the worst. We had multiple levels of contingency plans in place. We developed plans to protect our officers. We requested personal protective equipment well before we needed it. We developed staffing plans in the event that 40 to 50% of our workforce goes out sick.

I think another important lesson is to sit down with your union. Early on, we met with our union leaders and told them that our end goal was to keep our cops safe and enforce the laws, and that we understood that officers worry about the safety of their families. We told them we were planning for 12-hour shifts, and they had several ideas we hadn’t considered. Because our mayor declared a state of emergency, we weren’t at the mercy of contract negotiations, but we brought the union in because we want their input and support.

Wexler: How do things stand today in Aurora?

Chief Ziman: I think things are definitely going to get worse. As more test kits become available, we’re going to see more people test positive. Every morning our command staff hears about officers with sick family members. We have officers on automatic 14-day quarantine because their spouse or family member has tested positive. Even if it doesn’t get to the point where 40% of our officers are out sick, I’m anticipating that there’s a storm ahead.


Detroit Police Chief James Craig:

Fortunately, We Created a Fallback Communications Center

Wexler: How are you feeling?

Chief Craig: I’m fighting the fight. I started out with what I thought was seasonal allergies, which is not uncommon here in Michigan. It just kind of lingered. I started to become more concerned because the news reports indicated that COVID can have many characteristics, so I was tested on March 26 and the results came back the next day.

It progressed from that point, where I felt weak and more flu-like. I was most concerned about upper respiratory problems, because I know that’s a big concern. I’m working closely with the local hospital, and they think I’m doing okay, but I’m not taking it lightly. I’m home-quarantined now.

Wexler: This has also hit your department. You lost your homicide commander, correct?

Chief Craig: Yes, they just buried my homicide commanding officer today. 52 years old. And a dispatcher died before him. So we’ve had two deaths, and right now we have 76 members of the department, both sworn and civilian, who have tested positive for COVID-19. As of today, we have 528 sworn in quarantine and 110 civilians, so the total number in quarantine is 638.

Wexler: How has this affected your deployment operations? How is it affecting calls for service and crime?

Chief Craig: Some good news is that we haven’t had any service interruptions. When this thing started, we started planning ahead on the “what ifs.” We’ve collapsed some of the non-essential units outside of patrol and responding to calls for service. We’ve moved almost 100 staff from other units into patrol, to those areas that have been most impacted. Three of our stations have had the largest number of quarantined officers, so we’ve moved some staff around for that.

It seems like crime is really starting to trend downward now except for domestic-related incidents, which may be because of the shelter-in-place.

Wexler: When you’re recovering like this, what’s your role in the department?

Chief Craig: The department is pretty much interacting electronically right now. I have an acting chief in place as I continue to recover, but I’m still getting daily briefings and giving direction as to staffing, deciding what things we need to stop doing because they’re not as important, enhancing our telephone crime reporting to free our people up from going to non-critical calls for service, etc.

Wexler: How do you make a decision about whether to quarantine someone or not?

Chief Craig: We go through a process. For example, we got hit pretty hard at a community event, where a person who was a presenter came down with COVID, and then, as we began to trace back who he had the most contact with, we were able to quarantine certain persons. In addition to that, if people started exhibiting any symptoms following that contact, that’s usually an indication that we should quarantine that person as well.

So this was one event, and I think we ended up self-quarantining almost 25 people from across the department. That person who made the presentation has since passed.

Wexler: How is your dispatch center holding up?

Chief Craig: Fortunately, we got a new $8-million communications system center when we opened our new headquarters back in 2013. I had strongly recommended that we have a fallback position if we had to shut down our communications system because of a terrorist attack or other reason. That way, we could roll into another center. That worked out for us, because we had to shut down our communications center. We did it in a staged manner, moving people to our fallback center and totally shutting down our main center. Then we had the main center thoroughly sterilized.

Wexler: You have two-person patrol cars, is that right?

Chief Craig: Yes, we still have two officers in a car. We still have to deal with violence, so going to one-person cars would be a hard sell in Detroit. I recognize that most departments in the country work one-person cars, but if you haven’t trained for that, it’s not something where you can just snap your fingers and say you’re going to do it. There are different tactics for it, and you’ve got to have the fleet for it. And contractually, there’d probably be a lot of push-back.

Wexler: Do you have advice for other chiefs?

Chief Craig: I would recommend looking at departments that are on the leading edge of this crisis to see what they’ve gone through, and expect that it could happen to you too. We have a total of 638 people quarantined. More often than not, we don’t think that we are being infected by the public. There have been a few instances, but mostly I think it’s our members infecting each other.


COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard

From the National Police Foundation:

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on law enforcement and other first responders, the National Police Foundation, in collaboration with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation and Esri, has developed a real-time situational awareness tool for law enforcement agencies. The tool, featuring a real-time dashboard, provides critical insights for executives, commanders, and others to better assess and monitor the impact of COVID-19, including officer exposures, diagnoses, workforce impacts, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs and projections.

The interactive tool allows agencies to provide confidential, real-time updates that are instantly incorporated into the national dashboard and map. The dashboard identifies the number of officers exposed through their work, officially tested and diagnosed, placed in off-duty status due to exposure, and that are self-isolating due to symptoms or off-duty exposure. The dashboard also estimates the availability of necessary PPE, the most critical PPE that agencies are lacking, and current and projected shortages of PPE. The data is then aggregated and mapped at the state-level in order to show these impacts across the country. Individual agencies are not identified. Law enforcement agencies can then compare impacts in their state with those of other states.

Click here to access the dashboard.


Responding to Domestic Violence

Please respond to the brief questionnaire at this link to help PERF better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence. We may share your responses in an upcoming edition of our PERF Daily COVID-19 Report.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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