“Everyone is scared” of the pandemic, even police

People dialing 911 during the pandemic have been asked a new set of questions by police departments across South Florida.

The coronavirus has caused a quick shift in daily routines for residents, but it is essential workers who may be feeling the most significant impact. Police departments have had to make protocol changes to keep officers safe and serving their communities.

“Police usually respond to all calls for service,” said Jael Persaud, Broward Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. “Now they need more information on what the nature of the call is.”

On a regular call, Persaud used to ask only a series of questions regarding the emergency and the caller’s location. Now, she must ask if it’s a medical call and whether a phone report is sufficient.

“Even rescue calls have changed,” said Persaud. “There is a new protocol in place to question the caller about their symptoms and if they’ve traveled outside of the country.”

Something as seemingly insignificant as a cold or fever may cause people to panic.

“It’s mostly coronavirus calls that we’re getting,” said Persaud. “Everyone is scared.”

Since Broward issued stay-at-home orders in March, authorities have seen a decrease in crime, but an increase in calls regarding the virus.

“If a caller is concerned about having the virus, the most we can do to help alleviate their stress and transfer them to medical responders,” said Persaud.

For cases including fraud, delayed thefts, and lost property, police are mostly opting to take over-the-phone reports. Last month, the Sun-Sentinel found weekend arrests had dropped 66 percent from pre-shutdown levels.

“I imagine that the longer people are out of work and not getting paid, crime will increase,” said Persaud.

If they have to respond to a scene, officers must maintain an appropriate distance as much as possible, and of course, wear protective face gear.

“Broward Sheriff’s Office has spent an additional $1.3 million securing Personal Protective Equipment, so that agency personnel will have it throughout the pandemic,” said SSO spokesperson Miranda Grossman.

Because the coronavirus has instilled fear in many South Florida residents, police are trying to spread positivity in the community.

“We have many police officers volunteering at food distributions to try and do what they can to keep everyone safe and provide services,” said Tania Rues, the Miramar police public information officer.

Despite the enormous changes occasioned by the coronavirus, area police departments continue to provide for their communities as safely as possible.

“Our motto for our police department is serving our community,” said Rues. “And we’ll strive to do that in any way we can.”

Liana Alexis Martell is a journalism major and a local actor in South Florida. While continuing her college career, she also finds time to focus on her craft by working on film projects and theater productions in Miami.