MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said officers are already out patrolling as part of MPD’s efforts to enforce state and city stay home orders, which ban nonessential travel.
But even Rallings admitted it’s virtually impossible for police to know if you’re on the road when you don’t have to be.
“We cannot look at a person and tell what they’re doing driving down the street, going to work, going to the grocery store, the drug store, but if we see a group that is obviously violating the order, we will address that particular offense,” Rallings said.
Obvious violations include large gatherings of 10 or more people not spaced at least six feet apart.
MPD made its first known arrest Saturday for violating the quarantine law when a man refused to leave an illegal birthday party.
Mayor Jim Strickland said Tuesday that MPD responded to 17 crowd violations.
“They interceded on all those and successfully resolved those without writing a citation,” Strickland said.
Meanwhile, officers are seeing firsthand why social distancing is so important.
MPD confirmed 13 of its officers have been infected with COVID-19. They’re working to get other officers tested and urging all officers to wear protective gear whenever possible.
“If you go hands-on with someone, they should have on their gloves, they should have on their masks, they can put on their goggles,” Rallings said.
But preferably, police are hoping to keep contact with citizens to a minimum.
They’re no longer responding to low-level crimes and asking people to report minor offenses to a special hotline. It’s the same with non-injury accidents.
They’re also hoping citizens can help them avoid having to make any arrests by obeying state and local stay home orders.
“Know that your police department is here to support, but we’re also here to make sure you do the right thing, and I want you to do that right thing on your own,” Rallings said.