PENDLETON – Police Chief Stuart Roberts has made modifications in how his officers respond to calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he was reluctant to step away from the department’s policy of sending an officer to every call for service, but had to do so to protect his officers and the public.
“One of the challenges before us is if we get the virus into this building that starts impacting officers, we end up in a catastrophic state pretty quickly,” Roberts said.
Roberts serves on a state law enforcement task force that is seeking solutions for potential COVID-19 problems facing law enforcement, and he says infection of officers is one of those, because it will be difficult to find help.
“The likelihood of another agency wanting to send or provide precious resources knowing that they could be susceptible to the same thing is going to be somewhat limited,” he said.
Roberts said officers are still responding but, in less serious cases, are doing so by telephone or maintaining a six-foot distance if responding in person whenever possible. If a vehicle can be safely parked, it will not be impounded as it normally would be, for example. He has also limited the public’s access to the department itself.
“We have an open door that allows you into a foyer and then, potentially, you’re buzzed into the lobby,” Roberts said. “We’re not allowing anybody into the interior of the building unless you work here.”