It’s been more than a month since SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, began raging through Virginia. It has disrupted virtually all types of human activity, including law enforcement.
In keeping with social distancing requirements, Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney answered several questions via email from Reporter Charlotte Rene Woods and News Editor Elliott Robinson about changes the department has made because of the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Oftentimes, officers respond to a call where coming in close contact with people is expected or becomes unavoidable. What safety measures are in place for officers as they respond to calls during the pandemic?
A: Officers have been issued [personal protective equipment] bags that contain a variety of PPE options to include masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, Tyvek suits and antibacterial wipes. Additionally, we have established protocols for decontaminating our vehicles before and after our shifts as well as after transports.
Q: How are officers and department employees staying safe while working in the building?
Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney
Credit: City of Charlottesville
A: Best practices are being employed such as distancing measures, wearing face masks and face coverings, sanitizing shared spaces, and recording temperatures of employees as they enter the building to work.
Q: What are the main types of calls that CPD has been receiving since March 12?
A: CPD’s calls for service are primarily disturbances, shootings and shots fired, suspicious persons and mental health and domestics.
Q: Has there been a noticeable uptick in domestic calls over any previous reporting periods?
A: Yes, we have experienced a slight uptick in domestic calls.
Q: Some motorists are under the impression that some traffic rules have been suspended. How is CPD handling traffic stops?
A: Traffic rules have not been suspended. However, we are limiting our face-to-face traffic stops to the most egregious violations. Less serious offenses will be documented, and the offender will receive a citation via mail.
Q: Has CPD received any calls to break up gatherings of more than 10 people? What is the protocol when social distancing orders are violated?
A: The [Emergency Operations Center] or 911 Center averages 3-4 calls a day for violations of [Executive Order] 53. Officer indicates the following to caller and violator:
- Documented complaint, email health department and contact business or residence by phone to inform subject of the complaint.
- Repeat or subsequent violations, all of the above. Additionally, informs the caller and subject, the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Office is being notified. The officer shall physically visit the business with the officer’s immediate supervisor if telephonic contact cannot be made.
- If an officer cannot maintain social distancing requirements while engaging the subject(s), then the Public Announcement (PA) system will be utilized.
- The officer may issue a summons. The summons may be issued to the home-, apartment- or business owner when social distancing prohibits direct contact with the subject of the complaint.
Q: Has crime fallen overall? What has dropped the most?
A: Crime is decreasing with a decline in residential burglaries and larcenies.