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SWFL law enforcement agencies protect officers during pandemic

The world looks a lot different than it did a few weeks ago. With reports of law enforcement officers dying in other Florida counties from the coronavirus, officer safety is a top priority.

We looked at changes being made by law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida to protect officers during the response to the coronavirus.

If you go to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office website, the first thing you see is information about COVID-19.

Throughout Southwest Florida and the country, every sheriff and police chief is concerned about the members of their departments. And they know they are in harm’s way each day.

“Our deputies, they’re at risk like everybody else and not only themselves but their families,” Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said. “They’re worried about taking it home to their families.”

In Hendry County, there have been changes to protocols inside the building and out, from carrying personal protective equipment (PPE) to having people who call police meet you outside.

“They know they’re the front lines,” Whidden said. “They are the first responders if people need help. We have to go. If we’re sick, we can’t be there to help.”

In Charlotte County, they are no longer providing fingerprinting services and have closed all but one district office to limit face-to-face interaction.

In DeSoto county, the sheriff wants all meetings with the victim advocates to be over the phone to lessen exposure.

And, in Glades like many other counties, the sheriff’s office stopped conducting most misdemeanor arrests and are instead issuing notices to appear at a later date.

All the sheriffs we spoke to, including Lee County have stopped visits and tours of facilities. And non-essential programs, such as citizen’s academies, have been suspended.

Organizations such as the Major Sheriff’s Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police are providing information and sharing best practices in the county.

These are all common-sense steps being taken in Southwest Florida and the country to protect law enforcement and the people who live here.

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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