Four Poulsbo police officers are coming to the end of their 14-day quarantine after being in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
On Dec. 11, the officers were responding to an anonymous 9-1-1 call on a stolen vehicle. When they located it, they began questioning folks in a nearby residence and arrested two of them after developing probable cause that they stole the vehicle.
At the Kitsap County jail, the two were tested for COVID-19, and one of them popped as positive, though asymptomatic.
Even though the officers wore personal protective equipment during the arrest, the sustained close proximity to the individuals (less than 6 feet) counted as exposure, and by state Health Department guidelines they were required to quarantine.
As of Dec. 18, none of the officers have tested positive for COVID-19, though the department is still waiting on the results of three of the four officers.
“In a small department, losing four officers from the patrol roster is big. We currently have twelve officers who work patrol, so we lost one-third of our available staff. This forces detectives and other officers to fill in and work patrol shifts. The fact that two of the four officers are currently in training and not working independently helped mitigate the impact on staffing. However, you can see how quickly a small department could be rendered ineffective if seven-eight officers were impacted,” Poulsbo Police Chief Ron Harding said.
The pandemic already had made policing more difficult, he added.
“It limits the amount of pro-active work that officers can do,” Harding said.”I have had to issue a directive for officers to limit their contact and engagement with the public until this pandemic is over because the risk of contracting the virus and the effect it could have on this small department is too great.”
Harding noted that the department wants to be more active in the community, but because of the pandemic has had to restrict itself to responding to emergency calls.
“We would like to be involved in the schools (SRO) program but are not able to do that right now either. We have missed a whole year of interacting with students and parents. We want to be involved in community events, teach classes, host coffee-with-a-cop programs, but are unable to,” Harding said.