In January of 2020, the world started learning about a new virus, COVID-19. The following month it hit home when we learned of the first positive case of COVID-19 in the United States. By mid-March 2020, COVID-19 was in all 50 states, and US territories. We as a society, and law enforcement, faced a new reality that seemed more like a fiction novel. To say the United States of America was not prepared for what was coming is an understatement.
We, as a law enforcement agency, prepared to manage this virus the best way we knew how. We researched and prepared ourselves by analyzing law enforcement agencies throughout the country to see measures taken, and compared that with what worked, and what did not work. This knowledge gave us a leg up, as we were able to purchase necessary supplies to keep our staff equipped to be on the frontlines of this virus. I say frontlines because we as first responders are the frontlines to the people outside the corners of the medical facilities where the true frontline heroes work.
How did we prepare you ask? Well there were major concerns about how to continue to operate safely and effectively, while keeping everyone safe and healthy. Our deputies quickly learned how to change and adapt to the new routines they had to follow. Sanitizing equipment, limiting time in the office, and maintaining social distances were just a few.
One of the many non-discretionary duties of the Office of Sheriff is to issue permits for firearms. In order to carry out this required duty in the safest way possible, we installed Plexiglass shields in our offices to ensure safety of our administrative staff and the members of the public. We never shut down our operations of interacting with the public on a day-to-day basis. If the public has business they need to conduct at our office, we will be open during business hours to provide services to them.
One division of the sheriff’s office that was heavily impacted was our detention center. Due to COVID-19, we had to make hard decisions to ensure the safety and well-being of our detention staff and inmates. We implemented temperature checks and screening questions before entrance in to the facility, accompanied with a mask requirement. We had to limit, and later suspend, our on-site visitations and pastoral visits, and had to re-think how we processed and handled inmates.
We incorporated several negative pressure jail cells during the design phase of our new detention center. These cells do not circulate the air throughout the jail, thus reducing exposure risk. Little did we know then what an important addition this would be. Minimizing exposure risk is essential in the detention center as it is the largest housing facility in Iredell County. The last thing we want is an outbreak in our detention center for the county medical services to handle.
Hopefully there is an end in sight from the virus, and we can get back to doing business the way we were last year at this time. I am very proud of how this agency has responded and adapted to the limitations and changes brought on by this virus.
If you have any additional questions about how we handle COVID-19 or other law enforcement related questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-878-3180.
Darren Campbell is the sheriff of Iredell County.