Des Moines Public Safety Officer 911

Covid-19 & DMPD

     It seems like every time we are faced with some sort of mass tragedy we are burdened with a new group of catchy clichés that we have to learn, understand and accept.  With the mass shootings we have experienced in the recent past, the terms; “ACTIVE SHOOTER,” “A FLUID CRIME SCENE” and the ever popular “SHELTER IN PLACE!” slogans were drummed into our heads over and over again.  Now with the advent of the corona virus -AKA covid-19 we now have even more new popular terms which are of course; “social distancing,” “the new normal” and my favorite, “out of an abundance of caution.”  We are being told until better times we need to keep 6’ apart from each other and not gather in large groups.  We need to use extreme caution in dealing with others in order to keep ourselves safe from an invisible enemy (and let there be no doubt, that we are dealing with an enemy never encountered before.

     Stay at home orders by Governors from practically every state in the nation have been put in place.  Closing businesses, schools and our lives in general have been transported back to The Twilight Zone.

     These were of course necessary measures to combat and attempt to curtail the devastating affect of this virus impacting –not only our nation but the whole world.  None of us has ever experienced anything like this.  Our great grandchildren will be telling their great grandchildren about what they went through in 2020.  It will be in history books.  So by the way, congratulations you just became part of history.  We will be like Pearl Harbor survivors.

     I am not in any way, shape or form making light of this situation.  There is no denying that we are going through one Hell of a situation and we have a long way to go before we get to “the new normal.”

     All of this social distancing and using an abundance of caution is great for John and Joan Public.  But how does that affect our first responders, whether they be fire fighters, EMTs or members of our profession, police officers?  How can they do their jobs in the manner in which we have been accustomed and keep themselves, their peers, non-sworn personnel and most importantly their families safe?

    For the most part 99.9% of the work that any first responder does is up close and personal.   Think back about some of the lovely residences we went into when we were working.  There wasn’t enough Lysol being manufactured back then to remove the stench that many of these places often put out.  This is not to mention dealing with car accidents with injuries that brought an abundance of blood and other bodily fluids. There were suicide and homicide scenes that still give some of us nightmares.  And, of course, we encountered our share of arrestees that were not exactly thrilled with going to jail and decided to try to fight their way out of the situation.  We were exposed to their blood, sweat and spit.  We were not afforded the luxury of being able to say; “Well let’s hold on there for a minute buddy while I put on my mask, gloves and hazmat suit”.  It was balls to the wall from Jump Street in a lot of cases.  We at least knew what was coming.  The combined training received in the Police Academy, the street smarts acquired from The School of Hard Knocks and the God-given common sense we all brought with us is what kept us safe and alive during those close encounters of the worst kind.  I said years ago that all the good cops I ever knew had a Masters Degree from “The School of Hard Knocks” and a PhD. in common sense.

With this virus there is no telltale flinch, no eye movement that would indicate a fight or flight situation is about to ensue.  This threat is not only invisible it is predictably unpredictable.  It can come out of nowhere just like the wind.  It can infect you and it could be two weeks before you know it got to you.

     So I am sure this has made all first responders jobs 1000X more difficult ever.  This is especially true now that beyond enforcing all of the regular laws and ordinances, they have to enforce the new regulations on social distancing that some idiots just can’t a grasp on.  They will probably have to make room on their equipment belts for a calculator and digital measuring device to assist them in figuring the square footage of buildings to make sure there are not too many people in them.     

     I am sure the administration is doing everything humanly possible to train and protect those who protect us.  But there are situations where they (first responders) have to act immediately and don’t have the luxury of consulting the rule book.  The last I knew people could still get arrested without law enforcement having to make a reservation with them to do so.  If they get called to someone’s home on a domestic situation they may not have the ability to stand out in the front yard without entering the home to settle the problem.  Traffic accidents continue to happen even though there is less traffic out on the road.  And there is a select group of people out there who absolutely feel that the rules set forth by our state and federal leaders just simply do not apply to them.

     So the job goes on.  All we can do is hope and pray that a greater power is watching over all of our first responders and is keeping them safe.   Their street smarts, common sense and training will help them and us all get through this difficult time.     

Dave Brown

(Retired DMPD Sergeant)


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