Police Chief To Trump: Stop Testing NBA Players, Start Testing First Responders
Washington, DC – Police chiefs from across the nation expressed their concerns to President Donald Trump and Homeland Security officials on Friday that officers couldn’t get coronavirus tests and too many officers were being sidelined with 14-day quarantines after exposure.
On the call organized by the International Association of Chief of Police, Vacaville (CA) Police Chief John Carli told the President he had turned to “backchannels” at a nearby hospital in order to get officers who had been exposed to coronavirus tested, ABC News reported.
“Somebody needs to make a decision at the very high level so that we’re not having to have these decisions made [this way],” Chief Carli said.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide are experiencing personnel shortages as first responders are sidelined for 14 days after an exposure, ABC News reported.
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) senior official said on the call that “several thousand” DHS employees were out for quarantine, self-isolation, or confirmed coronavirus infections.
“If we’re quarantining [our] people for 14 days… we’re going to lose our first responders,” Chief Carli warned. “And we have to, at a national level, get the support down to the local level. Stop testing NBA players, and start testing our first responders.”
The chief was referring to 13 professional basketball players who reportedly tested positive while police officers cannot get access to tests, according to ABC News reported.
Many departments, such as NYPD and Chicago PD have opted to have officers continue working after exposure.
Chiefs on the call with President Trump also discussed how policing has changed under the dark cloud of the pandemic.
“Our mission has completely changed from what we were doing three weeks ago,” Norwood (MA) Police Chief Bill Brooks said. “Our core mission at this point is not only public service but sustainability. I need the police department to be operational and healthy 60 days from now.”
Numerous chiefs admitted that traffic stops weren’t happening anymore, ABC News reported.
“We really told our people not to do traffic enforcement at all,” Chief Brooks told President Trump.
Several police chiefs said officers have been told to avoid making arrests (if at all possible) except for violent crimes.
The chiefs also said they were having to assign resources to help with crowd control at grocery stores, ABC News reported.
Federal officials used the call to have attorneys tell police chiefs not to worry that the U.S. Supreme Court would interfere in their efforts to enforce “mandated social distancing,” quarantines, or curfews.
“We’re in unprecedented times,” an attorney told the chiefs. “[But] the Supreme Court is… not going to get involved in overturning local or state decision in this matter, unless the Constitution is being violated and that violation is something that is not reasonable.”
Chief Brooks said police were facing the “ultimate dichotomy,” ABC News reported.
“We will be asked to enforce orders but not make physical arrests,” he said. “And it will come down to the amazing skills of cops to make that happen.”
A police official from New Jersey complained that health officials refused to warn first responders of confirmed coronavirus case locations, citing healthcare privacy laws, ABC News reported.
“We’ve already had a case where a positive test was out breaking the quarantine, driving around with just a mask on, in their car,” he said.
The officials said officers won’t be able to take necessary precautions without some warning of where there was an increased risk of exposure.
North Carolina police officials said they had worked with their local health officials and created a “secure system” for flagging police departments when new coronavirus cases are confirmed in their jurisdictions, ABC News reported.
President Trump said Sunday night during his task force’s update to the nation that he would be issuing new CDC guidance for law enforcement on Monday.