Police in Pandemic: PPE use and community protection

Below is an exchange between Community Under Covid host and MPD press office, unabridged and unedited (except as noted to remove email and phone number).

Please note that the MPD response focused solely on the options and health of the officers and did not address the health risks to, or rights of, an individual forced to interact with an officer. Also, please note that MPD did not cite any kind of safety issue — officers’ ability to see or move freely, a factor both Dr. Tuckson and your correspondent each suspected might be at work — in their response.

Reports from the street and concerns raised to Council members suggest that — even if this policy or procedure has been adapted since 4/27 — PPE use by officers remains spotty. Here is just one recent example. Photo: Joseph Young, 5/17/20, used with permission.

Similar lack of PPE is witnessed in the Lincoln Park area and around town. This has been reported to Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who also heads the Public Safety Committee on the Council; the Councilmember says he has received other such reports and has already address the 1D commander about this and will revisit.

This issue was discussed during the Black Coalition Against Covid segment on May 20 as well as at previous episodes of the show.

Email from V. Spatz to MPD 4/27/20:

I am following up on a number of reports, from around the city, of MPD officers without PPE engaging with individuals in ways that would put both the officers and the individuals engaged at risk.

These incidents have occurred in several wards, in very recent days, long after the Mayor had issued instructions on wearing of masks in public and long after MPD and the Mayor had announced some social distancing rules for MPD.

Please provide the following:

1) directives to MPD officers on PPE and engaging the public at this dangerous time;

2) how those directives are being enforced; and

3) an individual’s legal rights to protect their health in the case of an MPD officer approaching them.

We Act Radio’s “Community Under Covid” airs Wednesday at 11 a.m. with pre-taping, so I would need any response by COB Tuesday 4/28 to include it in this report.

thank you

Virginia A. Spatz
for We Act Radio
Community Under Covid

response, 4/27/20

Hi Virginia,

MPD has issued a number of PPE to our members to protect themselves while on duty. Officers are encouraged to wear masks but it is voluntary, except in situations in which they are interacting with vulnerable populations or entering places where the Mayor’s order has required face coverings. Additionally, officers will use their PPE when interacting with individuals who may be displaying symptoms or when we must provide critical aid to a member of the community.

Best Regards,

Brianna Jordan Public Affairs Specialist,

Office of Communications Metropolitan Police Department

[phone, address, email omitted for publication]


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