Area law enforcement agencies are updating their practices to limit the potential spread and exposure of the coronavirus.
The Sherman and Denison Police departments announced efforts this week that include more discretion on what calls require the physical presence of a police officer.
In the past, the departments have utilized a telephone reporting unit to respond to some reports that do not require an immediate physical presence. Under the new procedure, more discretion will be placed in assigning calls to this unit rather than sending a physical officer.
“There is more discretion in assigning calls to that unit or assigning it to an officer,” SPD Sgt. Brett Mullen said. “Obviously, if there is an emergency going on and if police services are immediately needed, we will send units as we always do.”
With the changes, Mullen said SPD will continue to respond to emergency calls as normal. However, some cases that do not require a physical officer to be present will instead be followed up on remotely.
The announcement by SPD followed a similar announcement by Denison Police Wednesday morning.
In addition to triaging calls, DPD said that fingerprinting services are being temporarily discontinued. Likewise, the citizen’s police academy and its alumni association meetings and classes have been canceled until further notice.
Grayson County Sheriffs Office Captain Harvey Smitherman said his office is taking similar steps to Sherman as well as a preventative effort. The sheriffs office announced other changes this week, including the cancellation of visitation for the near future.
“There are certain calls that can we taken over the phone and we hope to do that versus sending the deputies out,” he said.
Mullen clarified what this means for callers going forward.
“Basically what it is, is if a report comes in or someone needs to report a crime and there is no physical evidence to collect, it is below the classification of a felony, and there are no suspects on the scene or anything on the scene, then that report is assigned to a telephone reporting unit,” Mullen said. “They schedule an appointment to call in … and they complete the offense report and that report is forwarded on to an officer or detective to follow up on that case.”
“So say a mailbox gets knocked over, or some sort of minor criminal mischief takes place,” Mullen continued. “We are not going to send a police officer out to take that report. It is more a police officer will call them and take a report kind of thing.”
Through this practice, Mullen said the department hopes to prevent unnecessary exposure to the virus for officers who are often throughout the community. In doing so, the department hopes that it can further limit the spread of the disease.
“Our officers are constantly out in the community and dealing with a high number of people on a daily basis,” he said. “The chances of them being exposed to this are elevated, and then they are going around, talking to other citizens, where it is not necessary, and that is what we are trying to limit — the potential spread of the virus.”