April 10, 2020


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


CDC news flash: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released new guidelines about when “critical infrastructure employees,” including federal, state, and local law enforcement employees, may be permitted to continue working following a potential exposure to COVID-19.

Previously, workers were instructed to stay home for 14 days if they were exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.  The new guidance allows workers to return to work if they are asymptomatic and if they adhere to protective measures, including temperature checks, face masks, and social distancing.

The new guidance was announced by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield at a White House briefing on Wednesday evening.

“One of the most important things we can do is keep our critical workforce working,” Dr. Redfield said.  “And so what CDC has done is that we’ve really looked at the essential workforce and how to maintain that workforce, particularly at this time as we begin to get ready to reopen and have confidence in bringing our workforces back to work.”


Internal Communications During COVID-19


5 Key Takeaways

1. Communicate with your officers, every day if possible. You simply can’t over-communicate.

As General Stanley McChrystal said, “Don’t hunker down. Be visible, and show calm amid the chaos. Organizations can handle bad news and tough times if they feel their leaders are focused on solving the issues at hand.”

2. Make it personal.

The COVID crisis  affects everyone personally as well as professionally.  Officers worry about their own health and their families.  They need to know that the police department cares about their welfare, and will be there for them if they become sick.

3. Communication is a two-way street.

Create mechanisms for your officers and other employees to ask questions, or to speak up if they have concerns or suggestions. 

4. Some chiefs are saying that videos are an essential communications tool during an event like this pandemic.

The COVID crisis has created an avalanche of printed materials, emails, and fact sheets. While these printed materials are important for conveying detailed information, it can be difficult to keep up with all the reading material.  Several chiefs are sending brief videos to their officers every few days. It’s surprising how much information can be included in a brief 3-minute video.  Videos also are more personal.

5. The COVID pandemic is a good time to be candid with your officers.

Whenever possible, speak plain English to your officers. Answer their questions. And don’t sugar-coat anything.


Personal Messages from the Chief


Middletown Township, PA Chief Joe Bartorilla:

Every Day, I Speak to Every Officer Who Is Out Sick, And We Send Them PPE for Their Care Givers

Our small police department in southeastern Pennsylvania has been hit hard by this virus. Four of our 59 sworn employees have tested positive so far, with more tests pending for some of the symptomatic officers. 

One thing I do every day is personally contact and speak to every officer who is out sick. I ask how they’re doing, ensure they are being cared for and taking care of themselves, and make sure they have enough of the critical ‘sick supplies’ like Gatorade, chicken soup, and Tylenol.

We also offer our sick officers a supply of PPE, especially surgical masks and gloves, for their care givers to wear, or for the officers themselves to wear when caregivers are near them. We have also ensured that each officer is paired up with a medical doctor to guide them through their illness, because many of us don’t have good old-fashioned family doctors anymore.


Miami, FL Police Chief Jorge Colina:

Video Allows Me to Explain Some Things More Clearly

In video updates, Chief Colina gives his employees the latest information about issues they care about. “I think that video is a little bit better than a lengthy email, because it allows me to explain some of the things that are going on in a better way,” he said.

In one recent update, he explained the status of officers who have been tested, all of whom at the time of the video had tested negative; the availability of testing for members of the department; and updates on PPE equipment, including the imminent arrival of 80,000 masks. Chief Colina also explained that calls for service were declining, an indication that Miami residents are complying with stay-at-home orders.

The Chief closed this video with a message about officers’  important role in demonstrating that the police are still available to help the community .

“Remember that you have something to offer the public, which is hope, encouragement, and support,” Chief Colina told his officers. “So please be patient, be kind, and be visible,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of people who have told me how grateful they are when they see you out in the street. It gives them a certain sense of comfort. So when you see someone, wave at them, let the community know that we are here for them. It has a calming effect.”

“If you’re feeling anxious, join the club”:  The Chief also offered a reassuring message to his officers. “If you’re nervous, if you’re feeling anxious about what’s going on, join the club,” he said. “We all feel the same. It’s completely normal to be a little stressed-out. What I want everyone to understand is that we’re going to take care of you. The people we have sent home for quarantining to make sure they’re OK, we check on them daily. If someone needs something, we’re going to make sure that we deliver it to your home. We’re going to take care of each other, and we’re going to get through this.”


Tucson, AZ Police Chief Chris Magnus Shares “Tough Stuff” and “Good News”

For almost two weeks, Tucson Chief Chris Magnus has sent department-wide emails on an almost-daily basis. These messages are written by the chief in his own voice, and they reveal exactly what he’s thinking about an issue. For example, in his April 6 update, Chief Magnus summarized what he called “The Tough Stuff” vs. “The Good News.”

The Tough Stuff included:  “We don’t have control over the reality that there are a very limited number of tests available in our area to determine if you, a family member, or one of your colleagues is positive for this virus.  This means that while we can direct you somewhere for a COVID-19 test, it’s very possible they won’t have a test available to give you.”

The Good News included:  “We are close to finalizing lodging arrangements with a local hotel for first responders who need a place to quarantine away from their family because of their special circumstances.” 

In his March 30 email, Chief Magnus gave his officers the following guidance about shutting down large house parties:

Community Spread—Dealing with House Parties

It’s hard to believe, but there are some people who are so self-centered and/or ignorant that they are hosting or attending house parties in lieu of being able to go to bars.  (This photo was taken of a party that took place in Ward 6 over the weekend.)

We plan to do more with the media to highlight the dangerousness of this kind of behavior, but if you either encounter or receive complaints related to these sorts of gatherings, please rigorously enforce the red tag ordinance or the excessive noise ordinance


Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief Steve Anderson Shows Officers That They Have Community Support

In a video message to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department employees, Chief Steve Anderson emphasized that the department supports them, and asks officers to self-isolate if they have reason to think they might have the virus. “If you feel ill, please report your condition to a supervisor,” he said. “You may be feeling the effects of influenza or the common cold, not COVID-19, but please err on the side of caution. Please take care of your police department colleagues. The precautions we are all taking will directly impact the health of those around us.”

Chief Anderson also told his officers that he has received many messages from community leaders expressing support for the city’s police officers, and his video includes footage in which these leaders directly address officers to say “thank you.”

The community leaders in the video include Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson, Nashville Predators CEO Sean Henry, State Rep. Harold Love, Jr., U.S. Attorney Donald Cochran, and others.


Other Communications Media

As information, policies, and programs regarding COVID-19 change, police departments are looking for innovative ways to keep officers informed:

Interactive Q&A system based on email:  The Fairfax County, VA Police Department set up an email account where officers can submit questions about COVID-19 and obtain the department’s response.

Consolidation of information on the department’s Intranet:  The New York City Police Department sends employees emails from Commissioner Dermot Shea, bulletins from various offices such as the Health and Wellness Team and the Operations Unit, and other messages.

All information is assembled and accessible through the department’s intranet on a COVID-19 Update page. The intranet page can be accessed through department-issued smartphones.

Vancouver, BC videos features chief and informal leaders:  Leaders in the Vancouver, BC Police Department believe that video messages, posted on the department’s Intranet, are often more effective than written messages at transmitting critical information.

“The videos are working well, because at a time of white noise and over-messaging, you can give people too much written information, and they won’t see it,” said Chief Adam Palmer. “We’re finding you can have the best emails, but it’s a lot of information to go through. The information is retained better when delivered by video.”

Currently, Chief Palmer and his Deputy Chiefs have recorded most of the messages. However, they are hoping to include more informal leaders within the department, particularly individuals on the front lines.

Power Point summaries:  Recognizing the importance of keeping officers informed and the large influx of information needed to do so, the Elk Grove, CA Police Department has begun sending daily reports out to the department members with critical information in one email.

The emails, presented as a Power Point file, contain a report covering the current number of COVID-19 cases and deaths at the state and local levels, information on state-level actions, and local information about helplines, changes in operations, and other updates.

“Our Department Operations Center found that we were sending so many emails, we were afraid staff members would start overlooking our correspondence,” said Elk Grove Police Department Planning Coordinator Caity Peak. “Now we assemble a daily brief for all Police Department personnel. It’s a 5- to 9-page Power Point that simplifies the day’s changes, answers questions asked throughout the day, and defines terms they may be hearing but are unfamiliar with.”

Brochures:  The neighboring agencies of Palo Alto, CA Police Department and Mountain View, CA Police Department both released brochures covering their departments’ COVID-19 Operations Plan. These brochures include messages from the chief and information on equipment and PPE, exposure protocols, testing procedures, telework guidance, and changes to normal operations in an easy-to-read format.


Correction: Miami Police “Heat Maps”

Yesterday's COVID report discussed the Miami Police Department's "heat maps" that inform officers about the areas of the city with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases. A sample heat map was inadvertently left out of the report and can be seen below.



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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