Frederick County law enforcement agencies reassured residents that they were taking all necessary precautions to keep the county safe and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus following the governor’s latest restrictions announced Monday.
Acting Chief Patrick Grossman of the Frederick Police Department and county Sheriff Chuck Jenkins have both ordered their patrol officers and deputies to handle certain calls for service by telephone, if possible, to limit in-person interactions between law enforcement officers and the public, according to Jenkins and a press release issued by the city police department Monday afternoon.
An example of the type of reports the agencies will now handle exclusively by phone include theft calls where there is no need to collect evidence and the suspect is no longer at the scene.
“The idea is to limit the exposure to the officers and to minimize the risk of being infected. All the calls and requests are still being handled thoroughly. If the call cannot be handled via phone, or the call type is such that an officer needs to respond to the scene, then they will respond as usual,” said Sgt. Matt Carrado, a Frederick police spokesman, in an email response to The Frederick News-Post’s questions Monday.
“Handling the call via phone also completes the call quicker, thus placing the officer back in service quicker. All officers have department issued cellphones and can take the phone call while in their beat, and in their vehicle,” Carrado added.
Other agencies in the county are also adjusting their practices, such as in Brunswick, where, even if a call is handled in person, officers have been instructed to try to practice social distancing, said Brunswick Police Chief Milt Frech.
“The people down here have been pretty decent. I think they understand,” Frech said. “I personally handled a call just the other day, it was a noise complaint, and I handled the interviews from a distance. They were very understanding. It was actually a federal employee who was working from home.”
It has helped that arrests aren’t a daily occurrence in Brunswick as they tend to be in some other areas of the county, Frech said, explaining that his agency hasn’t had a need to arrest anyone or take anyone to the county detention center since Gov. Larry Hogan’s first announcement banning large gatherings and closing bars and restaurants back on March 16.
Hogan’s latest announcement Monday went even further, effectively closing all non-essential businesses effective as of 5 p.m., driving home the point that the state is taking the spread of COVID-19 cases seriously.
Following that announcement, Grossman’s release emphasized that the Frederick Police Department was conducting regular patrol checks on essential businesses such as grocery stores, banks and financial institutions, and medical facilities during the state of emergency. Carrado said there had not been a noticeable increase in calls for service or any other such issues at grocery stores since the governor’s first announcement last week.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office will also implement social distancing wherever possible and remained committed to enforcing the governor’s restrictions on businesses and gatherings of more than 10 people, but Jenkins said the calls for service over the weekend were fewer and farther between than is ordinary and added that he was heartened by what he was seeing in the community so far.
“So far, from what I [have] seen over recent days is that the majority of Frederick County residents have generally adhered to the order and I have observed everyone in my travels to be doing the right things to limit contact with others and reduce the risk of an exposure to the virus,” Jenkins wrote in an email response to The News-Post’s questions Monday.
All agency heads emphasized that, in an emergency, residents should call 911 and expect law enforcement to react and respond as normal to ensure public safety, regardless of the threat of the virus.