Police work in a pandemic

The global coronavirus epidemic clearly demonstrated that police services in most countries of the world were unprepared to deal with such conditions, what conclusions we should draw and how we can influence the situation

 Police work under the quarantine regime and during the pandemic of dangerous viral infections

Police work under the quarantine regime and during the pandemic of dangerous viral infections

The global pandemic of coronavirus infection in 2020-2022 has had a significant impact on many, familiar aspects of people's daily lives. The rules have changed: travel on public transport, visiting public places, work of businesses and organizations, educational, sports and cultural institutions, stores, cafes, restaurants, etc. At the same time, the situation with the spread of COVID-19 brought serious changes in the work of law enforcement agencies, for which, as practice has shown, they were completely unprepared. We are talking not only about the fact that a huge number of officers themselves have suffered from a dangerous disease (unfortunately, among them were those for whom the disease ended in death or severe health consequences that made it impossible for them to continue to serve), but also about the fact that both the conditions in which the police services had to perform their daily tasks and the list of those tasks themselves have fundamentally changed. The officers had to form and learn to fulfill these tasks literally on the fly.

Personal opinion of the author of the article: few people thought about the fact that police officers, on a par with doctors, with no less risk to life, are out on the streets, roads, train stations, airports, go down to the subway every day, ensuring order and safety of people. They were the ones charged with overseeing compliance with isolation and other antiviral restrictions. In doing their job, they have contributed significantly to containing the dangerous infection, while putting themselves and their loved ones at great risk of infection on a daily basis. The fact that, to date, the spread of COVID-19 has been slowed and, in some countries, halted, is a great credit to law enforcement officers, who, as is often the case, have largely gone unrecognized and unappreciated.

It is important to understand that this is the first time humanity has faced a viral threat of this scale in the last 100 years, and according to a significant part of the scientific and medical community, this is only the beginning of the «Era of global epidemics» that awaits humanity in the near future. This will require serious changes in the current system of ensuring public order, primarily in the streets and other public places. The special tasks that police units performed during the pandemic (control of isolation and related restrictions, use of personal protective equipment, operation of transport, organizations, cultural, sports, political and other events, etc.) will turn into everyday tasks.
As during the period of active spread of coronavirus infection, and in the near future, nothing will change for police officers, they will continue to work in close contact with a large number of people, including potential (and in some cases even obvious) carriers of dangerous viruses. Such conditions create an increased risk of infection for them, and the high level of infectious danger requires serious protective measures. But the problem is that these protective measures are practically nonexistent.
Since the beginning of the spread of the epidemic, I have carefully studied publications and stories in the media, where police officers are present in the frame. In photos and videos from Russia, China, the U.S. and Europe, it is clearly visible that apart from medical masks and gloves, law enforcement officers have no other means of protection. With very few exceptions* law enforcement agencies in most countries are simply not prepared to deal with a global and long term pandemic. Police officers serving on the streets, indoors, and in transportation facilities simply did not have the special clothing, footwear, equipment, and personal protective equipment designed for their profession and suitable for use in such conditions.
Patrol officers were forced to perform tasks in ordinary uniforms, shoes, and hats, which are completely unsuitable for this purpose, for two main reasons:
1. they have no protective properties;
2. they are not designed for frequent antibacterial treatment, which, in these conditions, must be carried out several times a day, at least every 2 hours.

* It is worth noting that there were exceptions. For example, in the Republic of Kazakhstan, in two cities, special, protective uniforms, as well as mobile disinfection complexes were developed and promptly introduced for police officers who carried out control at sanitary posts located at the entrance to the city.

How it looks like you can see in the pictures:
(all photos are clickable, click on the image to enlarge)

Unfortunately, there is no information in open sources on how effective this experiment was, in terms of the results achieved (the ratio of the number of infected employees compared to other, similar in functionality units), as well as how convenient and suitable for everyday use was such a special form.

Information and photos from the official website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The medical masks used are not suitable for the police, they are too fragile, so they are not suitable for working on the street in constant contact with people. The same applies to medical gloves, they are made for doctors, not for police officers, they cannot be worn on the street for 10-12 hours (the standard duration of a patrol unit's shift), drive a car, use special equipment and weapons. The protective uniforms and equipment for bacteriological hazard missions that the military uses are also unsuitable for the police, because they are designed for combat missions in a war environment.
I am more than sure that a global pandemic similar (I do not rule out a more serious one) to the one we are observing today will not be the last at all, and humanity will face similar threats more than once in the near future. Therefore, from the sad experience of the period from 2020 to 2022, it is necessary to draw practical conclusions and use the time available at the moment (which, according to the forecasts of scientists, is not much time left) to prepare for the next epidemic. At the same time, we should not underestimate the fact that the virus that humanity may encounter in the near future will be more dangerous than COVID-19.

Proposed solution
One of the main and primary measures should be the introduction of additions to the existing equipment of police officers, primarily patrol units. For this purpose it is necessary to add to the standard list a set of special uniform and equipment for work during epidemics of dangerous viral infections, in territories with a high probability of spread of such infections, as well as when terrorists use (including the threat or probability) of bacteriological weapons. This kit should consist of the following items:

1. Uniforms
An all-season set of patrol uniforms with the possibility of modeling it for use in different temperature regimes with additional removable insulating elements.
It must be made of high-quality materials, reliably protect the police officer from external influences (sun, snow, rain, wind, cold), have breathable and at the same time water-repellent properties. An important condition is that the uniform must be able to withstand repeated cleaning, including the use of special chemical disinfectant solutions. In addition, it should combine its protective properties with such qualities as durability, lightness and comfort for constant wear during 10-12 hours, which is necessary for daily work of the patrol policeman.
This kit should also include shoes, headgear and gloves, they should have similar protective characteristics.
Provided the quality of workmanship and the materials used are high, one set of such uniforms, will be enough for a police officer to be issued once, for the entire period of service.

2. Personal Protective Equipment
The equipment must include a special mask for the protection of the respiratory organs. It should be made of durable elastic materials, be suitable for repeated use, for long term use in all weather conditions and at different ambient temperatures, be highly durable and comfortable to wear, and be able to withstand repeated cleaning, including the use of special chemical disinfectant solutions. In addition, the construction of the mask should allow for the installation of various elements of air filtration* and protection levels depending on the situation, the nature of the infection and the degree of bacteriological hazard of the virus.
In addition to the mask, special goggles for eye protection should be included. These goggles should be made of durable materials, be comfortable to wear for long periods of time, withstand repeated cleaning, including the use of disinfectant solutions, have additional removable elements to protect against blinding sunlight or any other source of bright light.

* this mask can be unified, making it protective against all types of negative effects on the respiratory organs. Not only from bacteriological hazards, but also from chemical or other nature of air pollution. The vivid example, proving the necessity of such set (mask and goggles), as a part of equipment of police patrol units, is the tragedy, occurred in USA on September 11, 2001. Then, after the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, the area within a radius of several hundred meters from the epicenter was almost completely covered with clouds of hazardous dust, consisting of tiny particles of concrete, other building materials and glass. A large number of New York City police officers were in the affected area without proper respiratory or eye protection. Some of their medical masks were out of order almost immediately as they were not designed for such conditions (building respirator masks proved to be slightly better in comparison). As a result, most of the police officers in the affected area suffered eye and respiratory system damage, which subsequently led to serious health problems, many of them dying from the complications caused in the years following the terrorist attack.

3. wearable disinfectant and hygiene kit
The equipment of a police officer providing public order and security during a pandemic should include a self-disinfection kit for disinfecting clothing, shoes, weapons, equipment and personal protective equipment.
With such a kit, the police officer must be able to sanitize his hands and face and disinfect his uniform, personal protective equipment, other gear, and the interior of his patrol vehicle at any location and at any time, without assistance.
The kit must include:
- A personal hygiene kit, which must include: individual sterile packets of antiseptic gel for washing hands, face, and other body parts without using water, antiseptic fluids for mouthwash and eye wash, and a set of disposable antiseptic wet wipes.
- Portable ultraviolet (germicidal) lamp, with self-contained power supply, for disinfecting the air in small rooms, such as in a closet or drawer where uniforms, shoes and equipment are stored, in the cabin or trunk of a company car.
- Set of disinfectant solutions in aerosol packs for independent disinfection of clothes, shoes, equipment, personal protective equipment, items and premises, the passenger compartment or luggage compartment of the service vehicle.

4. Additional (consumable) protective equipment
A set of disposable masks and gloves to be given to persons apprehended for crimes or other offenses and brought to police units. According to virologists, in an enclosed space (for example, in a police car) where a carrier is present, a mask protects against potential infection by only 50%, but if masks are worn by everyone present, including the carrier himself, the risk of infection is reduced to 1.5%. Accordingly, that the safest way to get people in patrol vehicles is to carry them in masks and gloves. This will reduce to the possible minimum, the risk of infection of employees and citizens.

The development and implementation of such additional gear, will greatly increase the level of protection of police officers from dangerous viral infections when performing routine tasks during a pandemic, as well as in cases (and threats) of terrorist acts involving bacteriological weapons. If we take all the necessary measures now, order specialized specialists to develop special uniforms, footwear, personal protective equipment and disinfecting equipment, the next time the number of affected police officers will be much lower than during the active phase of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-2021*.

* No exact data was published in open sources, but judging by unofficial channels, the number of police officers affected by COVID-19 averaged about 30% of the personnel, in some units the figure was much higher.

This means that law enforcement agencies will be able to fully ensure law and order on the streets of cities and preserve the lives, health and property of citizens. Control the enforcement of antiviral measures and restrictions, which will allow the epidemic to be eliminated more quickly and with much less severe consequences. If we don't use the time at our disposal now, before the next pandemic begins and prepare ourselves, it is unclear whether we will be able to survive it at all.

I would like to add one more thing to what I have said above:
The situation with the world pandemic has shown that most countries were not at all prepared for it. We can say that we are lucky that in this case we encountered a virus that is already familiar to medical science and is not one of the most dangerous of the possible ones. Let's imagine another scenario, what if it were not COVID-19, but for example an upgraded (with additional «fighting» properties) «Plague», «Smallpox», «Rabies» or «Anthrax» virus. On a global scale, even with the most optimistic prognosis, the death toll alone would be in the hundreds of millions.
I am absolutely sure that representatives of terrorist organizations are watching the situation with the spread of the coronavirus very closely, studying all aspects of it in detail. There is no doubt that they will draw conclusions from this situation and then apply them in practice. The question is whether, by then, the law enforcement agencies will have anything to counteract them. Unfortunately, the objective picture of opportunities that we see today does not inspire much optimism.

date of publication: September 09, 2022
author Roman Grishin
photo taken from the site © 2020 Thomson Reuters

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