West Memphis Police implement changes to protect officers from COVID-19

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The coronavirus pandemic has changed how many people live and do their jobs.

For police officers, that’s no different, and officers in West Memphis have made some changes.

“It’s different than anything we’ve ever seen,” said Robert Langston, assistant chief of West Memphis Police.

Langston said not only are his officers having to lookout for groups of people not abiding by social distancing guidelines, reminding them of safer practices, but they have to look out for themselves, too.

“We have close to 90 officers here,” Langston said. “If one or two gets sick, it’s not a big deal. If 15 or 20 get sick, it’s a really big deal for us.”

They’re taking some calls over the phone they would’ve normally responded to. But if there is a believed suspect on scene or if there’s an accident, officers will still be on the scene like normal.

More than a week ago, WMPD started putting extra safety measures in place. Their building is no longer open to the public.

“We’re still offering all the same services we were before,” Langston said.

They’re also splitting up shifts. 

“Our criminal investigative division, they’re working two separate shifts now,” Langston said. “Never coming in contact with each other.”

The same goes for the narcotics and violent crimes units. As far as responding to calls, that’s changed, too. Officers are urged, if possible, to deal with calls outside of a home.

“Some calls they have to go inside for, so they have some personal protective equipment, they have goggles, they have the N95 mask, they have gloves,” Langston said. “It’s our policy now if an officer is going into a house on a call, they’re wearing that protective equipment. The quicker we practice this social distancing, the quicker we can make this a thing of the past and go back to our normal lives.”

Langston said thankfully no one at the department has been sick with COVID-19. They hope they can say that weeks from now.

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