Dallas Police are considering drastic measures to provide protection if coronavirus slashes the force of more than 3,100 officers.
Starting Monday, most plain-clothed officers will be required to wear full uniforms in the event they are needed for patrol.
Another possible step is imposing 12-hour shifts for around-the-clock coverage with a smaller force.
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Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said he cannot recall resorting to 12-hour shifts in his 25 years on the force.
“So it is one those 'break glass in case of emergency' kind of options,” Mata said. “As the numbers dissipate in patrol, we have to keep those numbers up and the detectives are our back up. So we need to make sure they have uniforms. We need to make sure they fit.”
Mata is a night shift Sergeant at the Northeast Patrol station, where the one Dallas officer who has tested positive for coronavirus also works.
A heavy cleaning crew was seen at the station Thursday night after the positive test was reported.
“Just common sense is going to tell you that we’re going to have more cases. So I think the rank and file need to accept that,” Mata said. “We will protect the public. That’s what our job is.”
Friday the police department announced that officers will no longer respond in person to certain calls. A press release said reports on low-level property crimes would be taken online or by phone for follow up investigation later. The reason stated in the press release was “to mitigate the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus for both first responders and the public.”
Police had always placed urgent crimes against persons as a high priority and the press release said those cases will still receive an in-person response.
“I think we’re ready, as ready as we can be for the unknown. The department is doing a lot of preparation,” said Black Police Association of Greater Dallas President Terrance Hopkins.
He wears a relaxed uniform for his work in planning security for major events. He too will wear a regular uniform Monday. He said uniform presence by so many officers should send a message to Dallas citizens.
“I hope it does, because we do have good numbers and we are all prepared to all go to work and that’s what first responders do,” Hopkins said. “It’s what we signed up for. Whatever it is, whether it’s storms or floods or famine, we’re ready.”
A memo to officers from Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall this week said they will be allowed to wear masks if they feel it is necessary when interacting with the public.
Mata said higher grade medical masks that provide real protection are in short supply and should be saved for nurses and doctors.
“If we get sick, those are the people that are going to protect us,” he said. “We just need to be smart about that and we don’t need to inflame any more notion to the public that this is any more than it is.”
Both union leaders also issued a warning to criminals who try to take advantage of this situation with many businesses closed.
“We will find you. We will arrest you and we will put you in jail,” Mata said.
Records show burglary and fraud crimes are already running higher so far this year in Dallas compared with the same period last year.