While many area residents are stuck at home in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, local law enforcement officers remain on the frontlines adjusting to a new normal while still keeping residents safe.
Shippensburg Borough Police Chief Meredith Dominick; former Newville Borough Police Chief and current Newville Mayor Randy Finkey; and Shippensburg University Police Chief Michael Lee have commended the members of their forces and the members of the community for helping to make their job easier.
“Our officers have been dedicated during this time, and for that they are all to be commended,” Dominick said. “It is nothing new, they are always a dedicated group of men and women. But during these times, they observe each day they work their respective shifts the impact this horrible virus has had on our businesses and residents.”
Much of that new normal is enforcing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order and the federal social distancing guidelines. They thanked the public for complying with those guidelines, and noted there have been very few instances where they have had to be enforced.
“We see folks out and about being aware of social distancing and that is great,” said Dominick. “Our other contact with folks have been on calls for service which we recognize are still an everyday occurrence and much needed. People continue to live their lives and that, in some instances, requires the assistance of their police department.”
Dominick noted they have received a few calls about a handful of non-essential businesses in town operating when they should not be, and officers from the police department are tackling those complaints.
“We ask folks to hang in there. We understand it is overwhelming at times, but this will pass and we will be stronger for it,” she said.
According to Lee, work continues for the university’s police department even as the entire campus is shut down. There are students still left on campus, so their duties remain the same. At the same time they are keeping busy evaluating and updating their policies and procedures, and planning for the reopening of the university.
In Newville Borough it is a similar story. Newville Borough park has been closed for more than two weeks, and Newville Borough Police has had no known or reported violations. The park is monitored by several cameras that can be viewed at the station and in patrol vehicle laptops.
“So far, I have observed in the community that social distancing is generally being followed, I have only seen people out walking either alone, or with other members of the same household,” Finkey said.
Still, when they do go out on calls, they must take extra precaution. When necessary, they are wearing masks and gloves, and making sure to practice social distancing.
“If we need to address something, we do, always remembering to be safe. We clean our duty belts, our handcuffs, our patrol vehicles, daily,” Dominick mentioned. “We have been very fortunate thus far and in part, it is due to the social distancing and the measures officers employ every day, that we remain healthy. We have to because we cannot afford to get sick. These men and women go home to their families and then return each day not knowing exactly their exposure. We remain vigilant because we have to.”
In Newville Borough, minor complaints are being handled over the phone. When out of the patrol vehicles, officers are wearing protective equipment provided by the borough, including face shields, masks and gloves. There are also disinfectant wipes in each patrol vehicle.
The borough provided the fire company with disinfectant sprayers, so if there is a need to transport a prisoner, which has occurred, the patrol vehicle interior is disinfected at the firehouse. Anyone coming to the police station is required to speak to an officer through a close glass partition, and the interior of the station is disinfected daily.
“The officers all understand the importance of not contracting the virus, to do so would require every officer to stay at home for the required length of time, the entire station would have to be professionally disinfected and everyone who had been at the station, even just in the foyer, would have to be notified,” Finkey stated.
As Finkey noted, getting through the current COVID-19 pandemic has been a team effort involving local fire companies and even local businesses.
“Many businesses and community members have been wonderful to their police department during this trying time,” Dominick added. “Folks have been generous in dropping off needed supplies like masks and other supplies that have been challenging to obtain, and food just to let the officers know they are thinking of them. Many have purchased gift certificates from our local business- not only to help the business but to help keep the police officers going.”
She continued, “It is just another reminder about how great this community is!”