April 7, 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 today’s Daily COVID-19 Report, we talked to police executives about three related issues:

  • What they’re doing to protect officers from becoming infected,
  • How they’re taking care of officers who are infected or sick, and
  • How they’re protecting their cities with reduced staffing.


NYPD Chief of Department Terry Monahan:

We’re Handling 150 “Dead-on-Arrival” Calls Per Day

First, we’re allowing any of our cops who are in higher-risk groups to work from home. That includes officers with moderate to severe asthma, diabetes, immune deficiencies, or who are undergoing cancer treatment. We’re making these accommodations to keep higher-risk people out of harm’s way.

We have 18% of the uniformed members of our department who are now out sick.  We have 48 honorary surgeons who work with our department, and they are in constant contact with anyone providing care for one of our members.

We’re doing less administrative work now, so most of our civilian employees are working from home, and all our uniformed administrative staff is working on the street.  Courts are closed and cases aren’t moving forward, so our narcotics officers are back in uniform on patrol.

Dead-on-arrival calls:  One of our biggest issues is dead-on-arrival calls. So many people are dying at home that it’s taking our medical examiner’s office 12 to 24 hours to get to a location and remove a body. We have to sit on that location until the medical examiner can get there, and we have about 150 or more of those calls per day. Those calls are starting to be a significant staffing demand.

62 members of the department who tested positive for COVID are now back to work, and we’re bringing back about 100 officers per day who had flu-like symptoms. Everyone coming back to work is first checked by one of our doctors. We don’t have enough doctors to monitor everyone coming back, so we’re having 20 officers who have also trained as nurses to help work our sick desk, and call to check in on officers.

We’ve been following the CDC guidelines, which say that people who test positive need to wait 72 hours after their fever is gone and their symptoms have lightened before returning to work. And they have to wait at least 7 days from the onset of their symptoms.

Our officers who have tested positive for COVID have been out for an average of 11 days. Those with flu-like symptoms have been out for an average of 9 days. We’re hoping that a lot of our officers who first went out sick about two weeks ago will be back to work soon. We’ve had about 500 to 600 additional officers go out sick per day, so we’d like to see a similar number start returning to work per day.

We’re doing our roll calls outside. Everyone is being given surgical masks. If an officer is in a car with their partner, they should both wear masks so they don’t infect each other. We’ve seen several cases where one person gets sick, then suddenly another 13 or 14 in the same command test positive within a few days.

We have special “clean teams” who disinfect everything after someone tests positive in a command. Those teams have cleaned 410 locations since this all started.

We all work in close quarters, and it’s often hard not to be next to one another. We have a lot of surgical masks, which are good for preventing you from infecting somebody else. But it’s harder to get your hands on N95 masks, which are what you need to prevent yourself from getting infected.

Calls for service are down 25%, so we’re handling radio calls without a problem. Crime is way down, and there’s no one out on the street in Manhattan. The only crime going up is commercial burglaries, with all the closed businesses.

We’re spending the vast majority of our time enforcing social distancing. We drive our cars into parks and play pre-recorded messages that encourage social distancing. We don’t want to write summonses for social distancing, but if people don’t obey, we may have to start writing a few more.


New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson:

Unfortunately, New Orleans Has Many Residents and Police Officers with COVID-19

We are right in the thick of it. Currently about 75 of our officers are out. That’s 6% of them. About 30 of those officers have tested positive. We’ve had 27 who returned back to work.

We have staggered shifts for our detectives so they’re not all in at the same time. We’re doing roll calls outdoors and checking every officer’s temperature when they report to work. 

We have alternate housing for officers who do not want to go home because they’re afraid they might give the virus to their families, but only one officer has taken advantage of that. The results we’re getting back from these testing facilities are 7 to 10 days old, so we have officers who have already gone through it and are about ready to return to work. Officers do not burn through their personal sick time because they test positive for COVID-19.

We lost one officer who was a reserve captain. Our reserve officers generally are an older group, part of a higher-risk population for COVID.

Our calls for service are down 12%. We haven’t seen any significant crime issues; it has stayed about the same. But we are under a stay-at-home mandate by the governor and mayor, and we are responding to calls about large gatherings. We issued a summons last weekend because about 100 people were in a large parade, celebrating the life of a lost loved one. We had to intervene on that. We’ve given our officers a script to use when they have to intervene to stop a large gathering, which they read out with a microphone, encouraging social distancing.

We know we have some hard days ahead of us. Our medical facilities are starting to get overwhelmed.

We set up 1,000 beds in our convention center, preparing for a surge. We have 13,000 cases in the state, and 4,000 of those are in Orleans Parish. We have 477 deaths in the state, including 161 in New Orleans.  We’re seeing more cardiac arrest deaths now. 


Chicago Deputy Police Superintendent Barbara West:

We’re Closely Monitoring Off-Duty Numbers by Districts, Shifts, and Department-Wide

We’ve been closely monitoring the number of officers we have off, using a dashboard that alerts us when we go above a certain percentage. That dashboard lets us monitor individual districts, shifts, or the entire department. Currently, a little over 9% of our officers are off.

Some of the local hospitals and public health agencies have set up COVID-19 testing locations for our department, and many of our officers have used those services. We’re getting results back almost immediately.

From the beginning, we’ve told our officers to stay home if they feel sick. We don’t want them to possibly infect the rest of the workforce.

If we have two or more cases in one district, we do additional cleaning and disinfecting in that station. We also inform any employees who may have come into contact with an officer who tested positive, so that those employees know to closely monitor their symptoms.


Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison:

We Have 2 Officers in a Car Only When Necessary

Since the beginning, we’ve had 126 people quarantined.  Right now, 56 people are quarantined. We’ve had 2 people test positive, and 16 have tests pending.

In the city, we’ve had at least 39 deaths, but none in the Police Department. We’ve been following the CDC guidelines, and have a digital dashboard to track every day who is sick and who is not.

We have procured hotel space for those who self-quarantine. We’ve had some who were symptomatic, others who were not symptomatic but had exposure in some way, and there were some people who were returning from vacations that included international travel.

We are not charging any of the officers against their leave time.

We’ve taken measures that other departments have done, such as holding all of our roll calls outdoors, teaching officers how to sanitize their equipment, work stations, and vehicles. We have reduced what we respond to in-person, and the state’s attorney issued an order about what they are not going to prosecute, and that helped us a lot.

We haven’t yet had to make any arrests or issue any summonses for violating social distancing orders. We still have a lot of drug dealing going on, and dealers are out on the street, taking advantage of the fact that we’re not engaging because of social distancing. We’re working to get a handle on that. 

As in other cities, commercial burglaries are going through the roof, while residential burglaries are at a standstill.

We’re using unmarked cars and abiding by the single-person car concept. We only have 2 people in a car when we absolutely must, and when they do, they are using masks and PPE while they’re in the car together.

As in New Orleans, our convention center has been converted to a hospital staffed with the Maryland National Guard, with 1,000 beds in it. We’re preparing for a surge of people to overflow the hospitals. Testing supplies are just beginning to arrive here, so we are expecting a surge in testing over the next two weeks. We’re bracing for this to get worse in the next couple weeks.

We have cancelled all in-service training, and converted all Academy training to remote training. We’ve issued laptops to four different recruit classes. We are documenting all that because we’re under a consent decree and that requires monitoring. We’ll do scenario-based training later after we are past this.


Clearwater, FL Police Chief Dan Slaughter:

Testing Officers for COVID-19 Is Slow and Difficult

We’ve been very fortunate not to be hit too hard internally. Our department has had about 10 people with flu-like symptoms, and 5 people are currently out sick. But everyone who has been tested had the results come back negative.

We have had some difficulty getting first responders tested. Our employee health clinic has helped facilitate getting samples to the labs, but we’re still seeing a 10-day turnaround time.

It’s been difficult to get access to rapid testing capacity, and it’s a challenge to understand all the different types of testing and where they’re available.

We are encouraging our employees to practice good habits. Even before the first positive test in the area, we started deep-cleaning the buildings, ended in-person roll calls, reduced the types of calls we would respond to in-person, and encouraged officers to maintain as much space as they can.

The stay-at-home and other executive orders have stalled the economy. 50% of our population has pretty much exhausted their cash. I think we’re going to have some issues with food and making sure that we get some needed supplies out, which is going to be very complicated.

Everyone has been very kind about making food donations to the department, but we started saying “thank you, but no thank you,” to limit officers’ exposure.


Santa Cruz, CA Police Chief Andy Mills:

We’re Telling the Community Why It’s Important To Avoid Unnecessary Calls for Service

We’re in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area, so we’re experiencing a significant level of COVID-19-related illnesses. We’ve had about 10% of our patrol force out sick. We haven’t seen COVID-19 specifically identified, although there hasn’t been adequate testing.

We file a worker’s comp claim on each sickness, and then in order for them to return to work, they need a doctor’s permission and three days of being asymptomatic.

We’ve also established hotels for our officers, if they don’t want to potentially contaminate their homes. But nobody has taken us up on that, because they really want to be with their families.

We’re very rigorous about keeping our work stations sterile, and we’ve been that way since early in the process, which I think has helped some.

We tell everyone right from the beginning that they should stay home if they feel sick in any way, shape, or form. And at the beginning of each shift, we ask our officers whether they have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID-19. We have thermometers and if anyone has any symptoms, we tell them to go home.

We also extended the leave bank for officers. We put them on 12-hour shifts, which is costing us overtime, and we aren’t allowing people to take vacation or comp time right now. So we’re extending leave banks to allow them to take time later in the year, after this abates.

Finally, we did a three-minute video from the Chief’s Office to our community, answering questions they might have about COVID-19, and that includes information about the health and safety of our officers, and how we’re trying to protect them.

We say that we are continuing to answer calls for service, but we’re asking the community to give us a break and if they don’t need a cop, please don’t call.

The video was pretty well received by our community; they understand why that’s important.


Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson:

We’re Sending Officers Home with Full Pay, To Ensure They Self-Quarantine If Necessary

We’re fortunate in comparison to other cities, because we have a population of 670,000 spread across 533 square miles, so we have some dense areas but also some sparsely populated areas.

As of April 2, we’ve had 785 confirmed tests and 5 deaths in Nashville. Within the Police Department, we’ve only had 2 positive tests. One of them is returning to work tomorrow, and one just tested positive today. 

We have a total of about 31 sworn people, about 2% of our sworn population, who have had symptoms and are being tested, or were exposed in some manner. For example, last night we had 2 officers answer a call where the arrestee was COVID-positive, so we’ve put those officers off for 14 days.

We have spread the word across the department that if you’re exposed in any manner, or you have a family member who’s been exposed, let us know. And we’re sending people home with full pay, so we’re pretty sure that people are quarantining when they need to do so.

We have issued cell phones to about half the department, and we issued an order and a procedure for them to handle as many calls as possible on the phone, or to go to the location and have them meet the complainant outside, a safe distance away.

About 80% of our sworn personnel have an assigned car, so for roll calls, officers can check in from the cars. We’ve also closed down the large rooms that we normally use for public meetings, so we can have roll calls there, where officers can spread out. 


Portland, OR Police Lt. Tim Robinson:

Oregon Is Fortunate to Be Located Between 2 States That Are Doing Social Isolation

We’ve been extremely lucky, because none of our employees has tested positive for COVID. Our calls for service are down. Our sick time is down. Some of that is probably because we’re right in the middle of two states, Washington and California, that have done a good job of isolating.

We’ve arranged for tests for first responders from a number of testing sites. If someone does test positive, we have a quarantine location at a hotel where we can house them.

People will not be able to return to work until they’ve gone 72 hours with no fever and no symptoms. 


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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