May 29, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at


For today’s COVID-19 Report, we asked 10 police chiefs whether and how they are resuming normal operations in their departments as COVID-19 infections level off or begin to decline.  Most told us that some operations are returning to how they were before COVID, but some changes may become permanent.


Key Takeaways

-- Agencies are in different positions when it comes to reopening. Some agencies have not yet taken steps to reopen. Others have resumed some normal procedures. And some never had to significantly change their operations in the first place.

-- Reopening is a gradual process. While many of the pandemic-related changes were put in place quickly, they are being reversed gradually. Agencies are carefully considering which functions they can resume safely, so they can avoid a resurgence of COVID-19.

-- Some changes will be long-term or permanent.  Several agencies reported that they’re considering allowing some employees to work remotely indefinitely. Other changes, including online and telephone crime reporting, social distancing of employees, and workspace sanitation measures, may also become long-term or permanent.

-- In some cases, the pandemic has brought inefficiencies to light. For example, using email to send roll-call information to officers, rather than having a sergeant read it aloud, is considered a significant improvement.


Norwood, MA Chief Bill Brooks:

We Aren’t “Returning to Normal,” We’re Continuing to Adapt as Conditions Keep Changing

We’ve only made a partial return. We’re wading gradually back into traffic enforcement.  We had done virtually none since mid-March, to eliminate physical contact with the public, but crash rates are creeping back up. So we’re using a presence in heavy crash areas to deter violations, and we’re stopping motorists for more flagrant violations.  We’ve communicated to our officers that they should use only passenger-side stops (which they do anyway) and try to avoid handling licenses.  Instead, they use their cruiser laptops to check license status and registrations.  And if a citation is issued, we drop it through the window on the front passenger seat and tell the motorist that we’re doing that for their protection as well as ours.

There will be no “normal” until a vaccine is in wide circulation.  People want to hear that “normal” is just around the corner, but it’s not.  As an individual, you are in this until you are vaccinated, or until you test positive for antibodies.

So instead of telling officers that we want to return to normal, we’re talking about applying what we’ve learned about social distancing and the use of PPE as our call volume starts to increase. 

It’s important that chiefs communicate this message this well.  COVID-19 isn’t going to end soon, but that’s OK.  We know how to protect ourselves, the public is depending on us to keep them safe until we come out the other end of this, and we will get through this.  I’m always telling my officers, “There’s nothing we can’t handle,” and that includes policing during a pandemic.  I also tell them they are policing during a historic time, something they will tell their grandchildren about.

Some of the changes we’ve made will become permanent:

-- In the past, one part of roll calls would entail the sergeant reading through the important reports and log events from the previous 48 hours.  Those reports, believe it or not, were on an old clipboard. 

Now our Records Division sends those reports and logs to every officer over a secure email, and officers can read them on their work phones. 

Not only is that more efficient, but officers can now see that information off-duty.  And officers have told me they get more out of being able to actually read the full reports, rather than listening to the sergeants summarizing them.

-- Sergeants also now use our scheduling app to post officers’ sector and cruiser assignments, so officers know even before they report to work what they’re driving and where they’re working.  So most officers now report directly to their cars on the fleet line, which keeps them from congregating in the locker room, which is a health issue right now.

-- We’ve scaled back somewhat on the medicals we respond to, so now we prioritize them and respond to those where our rapid response may actually save a life.  We will likely retain some of that when things return to normal.

We need to begin thinking that “normal” will not necessarily mean “identical.”  We need to think about what we retain and what we discard when society emerges from the pandemic.  Some of the changes we’ve been forced to make are for the better.


Chelsea, MA Police Chief Brian Kyes:

With the Highest COVID Rate in Massachusetts, Many of Our New Protocols Will Remain

Chelsea is right outside Boston and has had the highest infection rate per capita in Massachusetts, almost twice as high as the next-highest city. Our population is about 45,000, and we’ve had about 2,700 positive cases and over 145 people have died. The deaths and new cases appear to be leveling off now.

The commonwealth is prepared to allow some government agencies to open on Monday, June 1. In Chelsea, we’re thinking about doing a soft opening. We have 112 sworn and about 20 administrative civilian staff. The civilian staff have been doing a great job, demonstrating their capability and productivity while working from home.

Starting Monday, we’re going to divide the civilian personnel into an A group and a B group, because we don’t want two people working together in the same office space. The first week the A group will work three days in the office and two at home, while the B group works two days in the office and three at home. The next week they’ll switch. I don’t know how long we’ll continue with that, but it’s been very productive, so it may be the new norm.

This battle has taken a significant toll on our city, and once it recedes, we need to put ourselves in a strategic position to prevent the virus from returning even stronger in the late fall.  Many of the changes that we made to our protocols need to stay in place, at least until a vaccine is developed.

  • Remote training has proven effective and will continue to be a mainstay.
  • Limited capacity in our gym, lunchroom, roll call room, locker room and report room shall remain the norm as well.


Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen:

COVID Has Stressed Everyone, So We’re Watching for Effects of That

We had a mandate from the governor to reduce the workforce. The city had 90% of its 13,000 employees working from home. The police department had 24% working remotely. We were able to get folks working remotely pretty quickly, and we have slowly brought some back to their offices. We’ve been ready to bring folks back for several weeks, but it was about ensuring they feel comfortable with it.

Operationally, we did not see a negative impact of people working remotely. We were able to work through any issues early on, and we have actually seen an increase in productivity from some of our property crimes investigators.

We have changed work schedules. We have thermal imagers to check people’s temperatures. We have a daily survey with five questions that every member has to complete. Depending on their answers, it may trigger automatic testing.

In our newer stations, we had plenty of space to move things around, but in headquarters and some of our older stations we did not. Those have plexiglass, hand sanitizer, decontamination mats, thermal imagers, and commercial-grade air purifiers.

If you’re not leaning forward in a crisis, you’re falling back, and we can’t afford to do that. So [police psychologist] John Nicoletti is helping us look forward to our next set of challenges. We are very concerned about the uptick in crime that we typically see in the warmer months. The anxiety and stress that people are feeling has manifested itself as violent behavior.

We know that officers also have had anxiety worrying about this invisible enemy that can harm them, their fellow officers, and their families. So we have done mandatory mental health checks for every single member of the department, civilian and sworn. We hope to help them deal with what we’re facing with the pandemic and the other stressors of the job.

We are also doing use-of-force refresher training. Our new use-of-force policy went into effect 15 months ago. When officers are stressed, that can manifest itself as behavior that we may not be so proud of.  So John is helping our officers get in the best headspace possible, and we’re following that up with a modular use-of-force refresher training that can be delivered virtually.


Clearwater, FL Police Chief Dan Slaughter:

Most of Our Civilian Employees Are Back, with Protective Measures

We never got to the point where we completely shut down our administrative operations. We significantly reduced the staffing and sent many civilian staff members home, but we kept a core group to maintain organizational functions. In the past week and a half, we brought the majority of our civilian staff back to the office. A limited number of people may continue telecommuting, such as those with medical vulnerabilities.

We are pretty much back at regular administrative operations, except that our lobby is not open. Those functions are still done online or over the telephone.

Some changes will remain in place. Some will be to create a safe environment. Some are about giving employees confidence that they’re valued and protected at work. We rearranged work stations to provide additional separation, we require all staff to wear masks in the building, and we continue to do temperature checks. We also modified some schedules so we would not have as many staff members overlapping in the same workplaces at the same time.

The biggest challenge is probably childcare, with schools and daycare centers not operating. We’re trying to work with employees who have childcare issues.


Janesville, WI Police Chief Dave Moore:

We Had Employees Work in Different Workspaces, Rather than from Home

We took a different tack and didn’t send anybody home. Instead, we built seven distinct work locations, to minimize our staff’s interactions. The department building was separated into an upstairs and a downstairs, and people weren’t able to move between the two.

We sent a few people home, but I kept about 97% of my folks working in one of the substations or at the police department.

Over the last few years, we have had some success building trust with some very targeted neighborhood outings, which bring together 50-60 people from a 6-block area. I hate not to do them because they build so much trust, but we just don’t feel comfortable going there yet. Our COVID numbers are still going up, and I need to see what directions things go in the next few weeks.

We are opening up critical training, including firearms, 40mm, Taser, OC spray, and ICAT. We’re increasing our traffic enforcement, officer-initiated activity, drug and gang activity, and parking enforcement. We’re doing all that in a smart way. We now have a better understanding of how this virus is transmitted, and we know our PPE inventories.

We’ve been able to work on some projects I’ve been wanting to do for years. One is a calls-for-service reduction team. They’re taking a deep dive into the data on calls for service, to look at where we spend time and whether there are calls we don’t need to respond to in person. I think we’ll be more efficient as a result of that work.


Chandler, AZ Police Chief Sean Duggan:

We’re Considering Allowing Some Employees to Keep Working Remotely

We had nearly 100 employees, both detectives and professional staff, working remotely. Last week, as we entered into Phase 2 of the city’s return-to-service plan, we invited all employees working remotely to return to work if they wish to do so. This was strictly voluntary, and the only caveat was that they must continue adhere to basic health and safety precautions.  We will return to full service or “normal” operations when we enter into Phase 3 of the city’s plan.

Our success as a police department has always been related to the level of trust, respect and support we earn in our community. Traditional in-person opportunities to engage the community will be impacted for the foreseeable future. As a result, we must leverage technology to double down our outreach efforts and maintain community trust and support. 

We are in the process of reviewing all positions that have been permitted to work remotely during the past few months. We would like to determine the feasibility and practicality of allowing some positions in the department to continue the practice of working remotely, whether full-time or even part-time. The idea is to identify efficiencies and perhaps better ways of doing business that came to light during the pandemic.


Albany, OR Police Chief Marcia Harnden:

Disinfecting Equipment and Vehicles Will Likely Become Permanent

Oregon has guidance on a phased opening.  We have outlined out reopening in phases.  Linn County is currently in Phase 1, with Phase 2 imminent, and that means more people may access the facility and have public exposure points.  This has caused us to address facility access and control issues as employees come and go.

Moving forward, we will look at long-range telecommuting options, which will come with related union implications.  We also will have minimum of 30 days of virus-related PPE supplies on hand.  The way we disinfect equipment and vehicles will also likely become permanent. 


Gloucester Township, NJ Police Chief David Harkins:

We’re Resuming Traffic Enforcement as Aggressive Driving Returns

During most of the shutdown, we saw that people generally complied with the stay-at-home order.  But as restrictions continue to be eased, we see that people are trying to return to pre-pandemic activities.  For example, during the pandemic, we curtailed our typically robust traffic enforcement, in order to minimize close contact and to protect our work force.  During the height of the pandemic, this was acceptable because traffic volume was very low. 

However, as restrictions are eased, traffic and aggressive driving have noticeably increased.  There is a perception by some in the public that police are not enforcing traffic laws, so they are driving dangerously. 

Therefore, we have begun with social media messaging that we are starting a traffic enforcement campaign to reduce crashes.  This is being done with a gradual resumption of typical motor vehicle stops and traffic enforcement. 

Our biggest challenge is to balance operational objectives with procedures that keep our officers from becoming infected with COVID-19.  Our jobs are not compatible with social distancing all of the time.  We need to make close contact at times to perform our duties.  The challenge is to do this in the safest and most effective way.


Bloomington, IN Police Chief Michael Diekhoff:

We Reopened Our Lobby, But We’re Still Encouraging Online Services

We reopened our lobby on May 26, but we’re still encouraging online and phone reporting and referring people to our website. We are limiting some of our services like gun permits and VIN checks.

We are continuing the twice-per-shift cleaning of cars and wiping down of the work spaces. Roll calls are returning to normal but with more distancing. We are still keeping contacts with sworn and civilians to a minimum and not allowing contact with dispatchers.


Roanoke, VA Police Chief Howard Hall:

We’ve Known from the Start that COVID Won’t Just Disappear

We have been fortunate that the number of COVID cases in our area has been relatively low. Our operations have remained fairly normal.  All of our employees are reporting to work, and our normal scheduling has remained throughout, with the exception of our School Resource Officers.  Our calls for service and enforcement activity have remained relatively stable, with perhaps some differences in the type of calls. 

We resumed in-service training based on the need to complete certain mandates. We will probably resume in-person community meetings when the county government reopens facilities.  SRO functions will be based on decisions made by the school system.

Since we have known from the beginning that COVID-19 isn’t just going to disappear, our focus has been on making reasonable adjustments to how we do our work to mitigate the risk to our employees and citizens.  While we haven’t significantly changed our operations, we have done things like handling more minor calls by phone, attempting to contact complainants in outdoor environments, increasing use of PPE, enhancing cleaning/disinfecting work areas/equipment, and trying to allow for increased distancing (using larger rooms for training, lineups, etc.).  I would anticipate that many of these will continue, much like adjustments we have made with other historical challenges like HIV/AIDS, active shooters, etc.


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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