BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – New numbers show COVID-19 is a dangerous and deadly threat facing police officers.
COVID-19 has killed more officers in the last year and a half than on duty shootings or crashes. Law enforcement officials say it’s a high contact job that calls on officers to react quickly. As much as departments do to protect staff, there’s only so much they can do.
Oxford Police Chief Bill Patridge, who is the Former President of the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs, said, “At least if you’re going to a call with a man with a gun, you know it’s a man with a gun call. You know how to take the proper precautions. You can’t do that if you (don’t) know an individual is infected.”
That invisible threat has taken a toll on officers in Alabama, and across the country.
Partridge said, “ODM says over 240 police officers have been killed by COVID compared to 39 killed by gunfire – so that gives you perspective.”
Pelham Police recently lost an officer, Juan Gomez, who died after he was exposed on duty.
Chief Bill Partridge says as much as departments do to provide PPE for safety, it’s a different story when it comes to protecting and serving.
“You may have to perform CPR on a person who is down, so you don’t know what you’re dealing with on patrol,” said Partridge. “And those are the concerns we have as administrators.”
Police union leaders say COVID also impacts officer work days and leaders hope that officers can get more paid time off when they have to quarantine.
Everette Johnson, President/Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police says, “He shouldn’t be charged that leave time to do what’s required of him to keep not only himself healthy and well, but also the community. It’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had. “
Despite deaths, research shows police and first responders are among the most hesitant to get the Covid vaccine. Departments report figures below the national rate of 74 percent.
Oxford’s police chief urged people, especially officers, to consider getting the vaccine because of the nature of the job.