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Portland Police COVID-19 Press Call

 

Chief Jami Resch answers questions regarding the Police Bureau's response during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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Transcript:

Announcer:
Welcome to Talking Beat, the podcast for the Portland Police Bureau. We're focusing on thoughtful conversations that we hope will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland police officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city. Here's what's on today's show.

Chief Resch:
I want the community to know that we are currently taking all calls for service. We are encouraging the public to report crimes online when possible or to speak to an officer or a public safety support specialist by phone if possible. Community members may also be asked to come outside and speak in an open air environment, but we are taking all calls for service. We're just trying to limit our one-on-one exposure in basically confined spaces if at all possible.

Announcer:
Welcome to Talking Beat.  On this special episode, Chief Jami Resch answers questions regarding the Police Bureau's response during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lt. Jones:
This is Lt. Tina Jones with the Police Bureau and I'm here with Chief Jamie Resch.  Chief Resch, thanks for being here today. I know that you've been busy. How has PPB been preparing for the Covid-19 event?

Chief Resch:
Well, I just want to start off by saying thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer some of these questions. I know that there have been a lot of questions and people have been working very hard to make sure that accurate information is out, but just so that you hear directly from me, I thought it was important that I answer some of these questions. So your first question, how has PPB been preparing for this Covid-19 event? We have been coordinating with our partners for weeks now, actually. Our partners inside Multnomah County Health Department, the Bureau of Emergency Communications, Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management, Portland Fire and Rescue and many others. We are currently functioning in a support role right now.

Chief Resch:
We are continually checking in through the law enforcement emergency support function with the Multnomah County emergency operations center. We have established what our incident command structure would look like in the event that we would need to mobilize more resources to meet our essential functions. So I do want the community to be aware that we are preparing for those types of things so we won't be behind. We're trying to proactively think ahead. Our primary role is to respond to police calls for service and to investigate crimes and we'll continually triage the staffing and the calls for service so that we continue to respond to these types of calls for service at the highest level possible.

Chief Resch:
I want the community to know that we are currently taking all calls for service. We are encouraging the public to report crimes online when possible or to speak to an officer or a public safety support specialist by phone if possible. Community members may also be asked to come outside and speak in an open air environment, but we are taking all calls for service. We're just trying to limit our one-on-one exposure in basically confined spaces if at all possible. And like I said, we will continue to prioritize our calls as we have been. And you just might see some of those changes in our response.

Lt. Jones:
Thank you, Chief. What does PPB's current staffing level on calls per service look like?

Chief Resch:
So from the very beginning we have been encouraging all of our employees to stay home if they don't feel well and that basically is just to protect the other members of the Bureau as well as the community. So we've been messaging that to our members from the very beginning. We put an internal incident management team in place on Monday, March 16th. This team has an incident commander and team partners who are looking at our logistics, our finance, our communications, our planning and their basically main goal is to focus on PPB's Covid response plan and to manage our resources. We have not seen an increase in the sick leave in the patrol division of the Bureau in the last several days, but we continue to monitor it every day and we do have plans in place should those numbers start to rise and we need to increase our patrol resources.

Chief Resch:
In the past two days, we've been averaging about 2.5 to 3% of our total staffing out sick. However, this is pretty consistent with the time of year that people are normally out with other types of colds and flus and stuff, so we have not seen a significant increase as of yet. Our total calls for service are down 14.6% from last week. However, they are up 6.3% compared to last year this time. So while we greatly appreciate the community's reply to trying to limit the call for service or do them online when possible, we have seen that and we appreciate that decline. We have been trying to anticipate what resources our community members may need when folks are asked to stay at home for longer amounts of time. It can cause some sort of stressors on people, so we've been trying to message out all of the resources available for mental health support, domestic violence support and we will continue to do that. I think that's it on that one.

Lt. Jones:
Chief, are we able to tell at this time the percentage of calls that have maybe a Covid-19 nexus?

Chief Resch:
No, we are not able to tell that at this time. I think people need to understand a lot of the information is protected health information so we may not always know that or we may not have access to that type of information.

Lt. Jones:
Okay. So what place practices have changed in the recent past?

Chief Resch:
So I think we were one of the first agencies to really take that proactive step of messaging out to our community that you are going to see a difference in some types of response to call for service. We notified the community as quickly as possible that we would be responding to calls as little as possible in-person, mainly trying to have folks do it online like I said, or respond by phone when possible, trying to have community members come outside. We also ... I'm trying to make sure that I've got all of that right there. I think ... Another piece that we did is we began to limit the officer's involvement in some of the things that we normally do. Like community meetings. We discontinued roll calls for officers so that we weren't having them group up just before shifts.

Chief Resch:
We've closed two of our three precincts to the public, meaning that only central precinct right now is open for community members to walk into. And this has actually been very difficult because as I've tried to communicate out, we really value the face to face interactions that we're able to with the community. But this is not only an effort to try to prevent our members from becoming ill and reducing our ability to respond to call for service, but we really do not want to be unintentional spreaders of this virus by contacting more people than we need to and then unknowingly passing that on.

Chief Resch:
So the other thing that we did in conjunction with the DA's office is we have reduced the folks that we are taking to jail. We are citing all misdemeanor crimes, basically the people that we are taking to jail are felony custody's and all mandatory arrests such as domestic violence. So I think that's important for the community to know that we are taking felonies and mandatory arrests to jail. So that's been messaged out a couple of times and I think that's very important.

Lt. Jones:
Great. So how is PPB preparing their staff and how are they protecting their staff during this time?

Chief Resch:
Right, so we have been in constant contact with the Multnomah County health to establish what are the protocols for our personal protective equipment for our members. We've been trying to keep our members continually updated with the most up-to-date and current information and pushing out daily emails. We've been looking for ways to increase the amount of personal protective equipment that we have. We've increased the cleaning schedules for our precincts and our workstations. We have gone through and our facilities folks have done an assessment on what supplies we have, what personal protective equipment we have, and we have really tried to educate our employees on how to stop the spread and what precautions to take.

Chief Resch:
Social distancing, attempting to handle phone calls or calls online, washing your hands with soap and water. We've really been trying to stress that. For those folks in the Bureau who are able to telework, we have been able to make that happen with some laptops. We're also trying to do things like rotate different shifts for some of our professional staff. And I would like to highlight that a lot of our professional staff have become very flexible with their schedules as we've tried to limit how many people are in one workspace at a time. So we may have half a group come in on one day and half of a group come on another. The Bureau as a whole has been very, very flexible in trying to make all of these arrangements occur so that we can continue with our essential functions.

Lt. Jones:
So what protective gear and supplies does PPB have and do you have enough?

Chief Resch:
So we have not changed any of the standard gear that we have for the officers. We have communicated internally and externally on social media about the air purifying respirators that you may see the officers respond to certain calls on. They look different, but we've tried to put out some photographs so folks would be aware of that, if you see an officer. All of the officers have already been issued these, so we've had these for a long time. They're trained on how they work and the best place to use them. We currently do have supplies such as hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes. However, we are closely monitoring those because we understand that they are in very limited supply and we need to be very mindful of how we are using those. And like I said, our facilities folks, that's one of the things that they're monitoring is to ensure that we continue to have that supply.

Lt. Jones:
So a lot of our media partners wanted to know if a Bureau member has been tested or tested positive for Covid-19.

Chief Resch:
so I am unaware of any Bureau members being tested. But again, we're talking about medical information that's protected by HIPAA and there is no requirement for anybody to notify us if they have been tested. That goes back to my direction to all of the members that if you don't feel well to stay home. I am hopeful that if someone does test positive that they would report that to us so that we could do our best to limit the exposure and take care of our community and our members. There is a notification protocol in place if someone feels that they have been exposed, but again I am not aware of any member who had been tested or tested positive.

Lt. Jones:
So what happens if a PPB member does get diagnosed with Covid-19?

Chief Resch:
I think it's important for everybody to know that this is a very real possibility and we are planning for that. I think the key is both internally and externally is really not to panic. If someone is diagnosed, it does not mean that everybody in their precincts or their workstation is going to come down with Covid-19. We have been planning for this. We have contingencies in place for cleaning, for notification. We would really need to take a moment to assess the situation, determine who would need to be contacted, what level their exposure was, and provide them guidance. At this time we really have to use a common sense approach when we come into these types of situations.

Lt. Jones:
So there's been a lot of questions that came in regarding whether or not PPB is enforcing the governor's restaurant and bar shut down order.

Chief Resch:
Correct. So PPB is not the regulatory agency for that order. That would be the OLCC. PPB does play a role in if we were to come across maybe a bar or a restaurant that we see is still operating, we would make an attempt to work with that location, explain to them you really do need to close down the importance of this, the social distancing. And then as we become aware of that, we would report that information to OLCC so that they could take the appropriate measures.

Lt. Jones:
Our members have a lot of relationships with businesses and bar owners.

Chief Resch:
Correct.

Lt. Jones:
Are we doing anything in that regard?

Chief Resch:
Well, I know that the officers have been in contact to those who frequent those areas either for call for service or have those relationships built already to ensure that we're doing everything that we can to support them in this time. I know that I've put out one of our kind of proactive self initiated steps would be to go around and check on businesses that we know have shutdown just to make sure that there hasn't been any issues with their locations. But again, I think if we were to see that an establishment was open and not following the governor's order, hopefully those relationships would allow us to work with that business to have them follow the appropriate guidelines.

Lt. Jones:
So along those lines, what is PPB's role and how a shelter in place order would be enforced and has PPB provided input into a shelter in place sand.

Chief Resch:
So I have provided input when asked and as far as PPB's role in determining that, that is not our determination. However, if a determination like that or something similar were made, we would do our part as far as communicating with the public, doing our best to message out what that meant, doing our best to support our community members who may need assistance during that time, but we have to understand that this is a fluid event and we must remain flexible in our decision making and our resource development. And that's where PPB really comes into play during these types of events.

Lt. Jones:
So what advice would you have for the public if one of those things happens or regarding going back to the restaurant and bar shutdown direction from the governor.

Chief Resch:
So if community members are seeing that locations are not complying with these types of things, I do encourage them to call non-emergencies so that the police Bureau has the opportunity to go and to talk to those folks and explain to them the importance of following the guidelines and how really it's not just to protect those people. It's to protect our entire community. And people may unknowingly spread this. A lot of people don't have symptoms. And so just because you're not feeling well or you're feeling fine doesn't mean that you aren't at risk to the rest of the public. So I would encourage them to contact non-emergency if possible. I would also encourage everyone to read all of the directions that are given either by the city, the county, or the state so that you fully understand and comply with all of the expectations.

Lt. Jones:
Thank you. So we have some questions about what should someone do if they're in a home with someone who is violent or abusive and when community members should call 911.

Chief Resch:
So again, like I wanted to say, we are responding to all calls for service. So if you at any time feel that your life is in danger or if violence is happening in your home, we encourage you to call 911 and the police Bureau will respond. We have tried to push out additional information on our social media pages and on our webpage for national domestic violence hotlines, mental health hotlines, as much information as we can to try to assist people. But I do really want to stress if at anytime you feel your life is in danger to call 911 and the police will respond.

Lt. Jones:
So we're headed into what is commonly referred to as protest season. What is PPB's planned for keeping public order?

Chief Resch:
So as many folks know, we have a lot of experience managing public order events and in different types of incidents. And while this pandemic presents unique circumstances and it's difficult to say exactly how we're going to approach everything, I am very confident in our team's ability to manage the events as they arise just because we have a lot of experience doing so.

Lt. Jones:
So Chief, what do you think is important for the public to know?

Chief Resch:
I think it's important for the public to know that our officers and our essential staff continue to show up everyday to provide public safety to Portland's communities. Many of our members are also juggling families, including kids that are out of school, ill family members or other needs and stresses that the community is also trying to navigate. But I am very proud of their dedication to duty and to service and will continue to support them in any way possible. We will continue to work in partnership with the emergency operations center as this situation develops to manage the resources and the community needs to the best of our abilities.

Lt. Jones:
So thank you, Chief. I think we have a few minutes for some additional questions in case we didn't touch on what we've had. So I will go ahead and change the volume and I know there are a lot of you on the call so we'll try and figure out the best way to make this happen. Does anyone have an additional question for the chief?

Reporter:
I do.

Reporter:
We all do.

Reporter:
We all do.

Lt. Jones:
All right why don't I just call out an outlet just randomly and then we'll see if you have a question and we'll just try and go through the list. I think we should have enough time. So is KGW online and do you have a question?

Reporter:
Sure, I do. Thanks a lot. This is Tim Gordon at KGW. I'm curious, you've mentioned contacting bars or restaurants if they're not following the rules. I'm wondering are any of them out there not following the rules? Have you had this experience where you've had to go to bars and say you shouldn't be open, you need to close? And I'd also ask about the demonstration season. Are you also encouraging demonstration not to happen right now? We know you have experience in dealing with them, but is there a message there for those who might come into demonstration season? So I asked two questions.

Chief Resch:
Sure. I am not personally aware of us having to do that as far as go to a bar and ask them to stop serving or anything like that. But it would be something that we would do if we were made aware of that. We've been asked the question several times, so that's why I answered that. But I personally have not been aware of any bar or restaurant that's not following the guidelines provided. As far as we'll come back to the second question at the end. [inaudible 00:18:09] to keep it fair. Do we have someone from KXL here?

Reporter:
Yeah. Just once again, Chief, would like to know exactly you're doing as far as prioritizing calls for policies during this situation.

Chief Resch:
I'm sorry prioritizing calls for what? Was that prioritizing-

Reporter:
Prioritizing calls from the community. What gets most attention from you right now?

Chief Resch:
We haven't changed any of our priority calls, so our prioritization stays the same. Obviously all life-safety calls come first and then it's, so our priority calls are exactly the same. We are taking all calls for service. They just may be handled in a different manner.

Lt. Jones:
And do we have someone from Portland Tribune with a question?

Reporter:
Thank you. No question.

Lt. Jones:
Okay. If you think of one at the end. Coin? Do we have someone from KOIN?

Reporter:
Justin Burton, assistant news director with KOIN. I guess you had mentioned this in part, but essentially what's your message to folks who are worried that there will not be enough officers on staff to respond to emergencies?

Chief Resch:
So what we've done so far is our operations has remained the same. All of the people that you normally see out in uniform taking 911 calls. What we've also done is told all of the officers who don't normally work the street, all of those who work our support units, our investigative ranch and everything, they are to be 100% prepared to deploy to operations if needed. So we are basically making sure that every sworn member who is able to go out and take calls is prepared to do so if they need to be. We will also work with our other law enforcement partners around the county and different cities if need be, so that we can use each other as resources should something hit multiple agencies at a time. So we are all working together and these are all contingencies that we're trying to plan for.

Reporter:
Thank you.

Lt. Jones:
Did we have someone from [inaudible 00:20:21] for the question?

Reporter:
Yeah. I had a follow up question on this demonstration part. One thing if Covid-19 is still a big issue during protest season, would you consider banning protests altogether?

Chief Resch:
Well, I don't know that I would actually, I mean there's different orders that come from different levels, so as far as the state and the county and we would all have to abide by that and depending on what those orders are would dictate what authority the Portland police Bureau would have. Obviously if we are still in the situation that we are in right now, I would highly encourage no gatherings at this point just because of the possibility of spreading it unknowingly. I need direction on whether or not to demonstrate what has to be decided by the state or city level.

Lt. Jones:
We had someone from the Oregonian with a question?

Reporter:
Yes. Can you hear me?

Lt. Jones:
Yep.

Reporter:
You mentioned, I wanted to check the 14.6% of total calls and service. Is that down since when?

Chief Resch:
That's down. I think we're doing week by week, but let me double check.

Reporter:
And also wondered if officers have access to the N95 masks? Is that something that's provided and with roll calls that are canceled, how is information getting out to the officers?

Chief Resch:
So our calls are down 14.6% from last week. However, if you look at this same week, last year were up 6.3% so it's down but still up a little bit. When I speak about officers showing up looking differently, that's the gas masks that I'm referring to. That's the N95 masks, that you'll commonly hear them referred to as that. Thank you. Did we have someone from K2 with a question? I'm not hearing anybody. We'll come back and double check. I know people are trying to get probably un-muted. Do we have someone from Portland Mercury?

Reporter:
Yeah this is Alex here. I'm curious if you could just speak a little bit more about your decision or the decision to only fight misdemeanor crimes. What does that look like in practice? I mean citation just kind of scheduled court hearing for the indefinite future, a fee? Are those being treated differently at all within the range of misdemeanor crimes?

Chief Resch:
So that decision was made in conjunction with the district attorney's office and I think probably referring to them for more specifics on how this idea will be handled is more appropriate. But I can answer just like from the officer level, it's what's referred to as a criminal citation. So instead of someone going to jail, if we're able to verify their identity, then an officer would issue ... it's similar to a traffic citation except it's a crime, not a violation. So they would be given a court date and then that would be up to the district attorney's office as far as the follow through. The officers would still write and submit their reports. And really it's part of the efforts to mitigate the number, the volume of folks who are currently in jail. And also due to the staffing at the courts and with the district attorneys, their ability to process those sorts of things as well. Did we have somebody from KPTV?

Reporter:
Yes. Hi, this is Brenna with KPTV. You touched on this a little bit, but Mayor Wheeler is obviously drafting an order for shelter in place and oh can you still hear me?

Chief Resch:
Yep. Yes I think someone just hung up. That's okay.

Reporter:
Yeah. Just what direction does he have for PPB right now? I mean obviously when that comes down you'll go forward with it, but you're in talks I'm sure about what would happen if this is to come down. How will PPB respond I guess is my question.

Chief Resch:
So obviously I am always in communication with the mayor's office, but as direction is given, then I will be messaging out what PPB's response is. Because I don't have what the message is going to be, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.

Reporter:
It seems like the ... Chief, you mentioned earlier, this is a very fluid time and so as we get our information and the chief's office works with the IMT to figure out resources and direction and then the communication's team has been working hard to both keep internal and our external partners informed. And so if there is direction given and we would certainly be relaying that information externally as we get it and figure out what our direction is.

Reporter:
And just to emphasize with Lieutenant Jones was saying, any direction that's given would be followed by a very large communication piece by the Bureau. So the community members are well aware of what the direction is and exactly what our response would be. Thank you chief.

Chief Resch:
So I think we got to everybody. Was there anybody who got missed inadvertently?

Reporter:
Yeah this is Lincoln at K2. I was on mute.

Chief Resch:
Oh no problem. We'll circle back. Thanks Lincoln.

Lincoln Graves:
I mean I think most of us realize not only are you guys police officers, you're mental health officers, at least in an unofficial capacity and something like this, even though we're in the early stages, it's obviously nicking everybody out there anxious. Have you guys noticed any difference in the types of mental health calls that you're dealing with and are you anticipating doing anything differently in that area in terms of dealing with all of this?

Chief Resch:
No, we're not anticipating doing anything different as far as like I said earlier, we're trying to message out all of the resources available to the communities as much as we can so that as folks are experiencing more things or having more pressures or stresses applied to them daily that we are in constant communication and trying to resource out everything that's available to them. I mean, you know our ECIT officers are still out there. We're still taking the calls exactly the same.

Lt. Jones:
And just kind of a side note, just I think all of your awareness too, I mean as we think of our different divisions such as our records division and our strategic services division, which includes a lot of our analysts, all of our different divisions are being impacted by this. And so it is closing down some of our processes. So at this point in time we don't have some of the detailed breakdowns, but we're hoping to get some of that. And as we have that we would be trying to help push that out and communicate that to you. So it is something that we'll be looking into.

Reporter:
Can you say is training still going on or is that ....

Lt. Jones:
Our inservice training for now has been canceled, so we're doing as much as we can of it online. So some of the classroom stuff, just the classroom portions that were videoed, we're showing officers that online as they're available. And then we'll have to work in the actual practical pieces of in-service when we can.

Lt. Jones:
 Thank you chief.

Chief Resch:
Thank you. Thank you, all.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to The Talking Beat. Do you have a question for us? You can call and leave a message on our dedicated voicemail line at (971) 339-8868 or send us an email to talkingbeat@portlandoregon.gov. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends. More episodes can be found at our website, portlandoregon.gov/police/podcast.