JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
As people are asked to stay home because of exposure to COVID-19 or become infects, having adequate staff is a major concern for schools, businesses, and several city and county departments.
While some jobs can be moved remotely, law enforcement officers have to be out in the field. Lieutenant David Williams with the Jefferson City Police said this is something they have been dealing with since the beginning of the pandemic.
"We do not have the benefit of schools or businesses, we don't close," Williams said. "We continue to plan for it like we would continue to plan for anything else."
He said the department has some people become ill, but COVID is not the only factor. Williams mentioned that it is flu season and there are some injuries related to their jobs as well. He said he couldn't release the number of officers that have exposed to the virus because of HIPAA guidelines.
"Like everywhere else, we are taking into account any exposures we can potentially receive during the normal course of our duties," Williams said.
The department has PPE available for officers depending on the type of call they are responding to. Williams said operators are asking more specific questions so officers can be prepped and ready.
"They are asking several questions to the callers for service to determine whether or not the response needed will be in PPE gear or if there will be a separation ability once they get on the scene," Williams said.
Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said like any other entity they are dealing with their own COVID-19 related staffing issues. He also couldn't provide any numbers for safety, security and personnel issues, but he said they were working through the issues pretty well.
"We're working through it pretty good, we're not at an emergency yet, so we are still working through it," Wheeler said. "We've got a pretty good plan in place, pretty good protocol."
The sheriff's office and jail have the ability to test deputies and inmates in house, which Wheeler says helps reduce exposure. As for staffing issues, he said the plan is fluid.
"I can pull deputies from different positions within our organization," Wheeler said. "If it starts getting low in one division I can pull from another."
Both law enforcement agencies work together with each other and others in the area, which Wheeler said would be a benefit if there were more widespread staffing concerns.
He said at this point, he doesn't believe there has been a need for mutual aid because of staffing issues but says it's something they do all the time.
"All of us work together pretty well already, so this is nothing new," Wheeler said.
Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for a full report.