AVOIDING close contact with other people is a luxury police cannot afford. Their role in the state of emergency brought on by COVID-19 is a combination of things they have never done before and things they have always done, but with the added fear of being exposed to a new, unseen enemy.
Officer-in-charge of Mornington police station Senior Sergeant Paul Edwards said his staff had been told to “keep their distance [from people] to limit their possible exposure” to the virus as directed by the Chief Health Officer.
“There are only so many precautions we can take as we still need to deal with offenders, which involves close contact and sometimes close physical contact,” he said.
“Our normal business continues, but we now are attending to tasks for alleged COVID-19 breaches.”
Senior Sergeant Edwards said many discussions had taken place “both locally and organisationally” on safety for police and the public. “We receive daily communication regarding restriction updates, safety updates and how we should be approaching the public in regard to COVID-19 breaches,” he said.
One obvious extra precaution police have taken is closing reception counters across the Mornington Peninsula.
“Cleaning station buildings, vehicles and equipment has increased,” Senior Sergeant Edwards said. Other small changes in day-to-day business relating to police and public safety “were too numerous to mention”.
He said an officer’s main concern was “contracting the virus, getting sick and passing that on to work colleagues and family”.
Senior Sergeant Edwards said there were not enough masks or gloves to go around. “Personal protection equipment is used when dealing with offenders or mental health patients, but that equipment is put on prior to dealing with them.
“Policing is a dynamic activity and, at times, there is simply no warning or enough time to put masks and gloves on,” Senior Sergeant Edwards said.
For the sake of safety and giving due regard to the seriousness of the virus, police patrolled in pairs. “During this period more than two members in a vehicle at one time is deemed a health risk.”
Senior Sergeant Natalie Dollard, of Rosebud police, said the reduced counter service at Hastings, Rosebud and Mornington police stations allowed more officers to be deployed “on the frontline and proactively patrol out in the community”.
“We will continue to have people working around the clock and resources will be deployed to incidents as needed.”
To speak to an officer at these police stations call Hastings 5970 7800, Rosebud 5986 0444 or Mornington 5970 4900. Those reporting on bail may use the intercom.
The reception counter at Frankston police station is open.