It’s only been one week since state officials started asking Minnesotans to stay at home, but cabin fever may already be setting in.
The Jordan Police Department has responded in the past week to at least two domestic disturbances stemming from arguments over COVID-19, one of which resulted in a fifth-degree domestic assault charge.
“We made one domestic assault on a couple that was fighting about the COVID-19 virus,” Jordan Police Chief Brett Empey said. “I think they were fighting about the seriousness of it, potentially ... Anytime people are home-quarantined you see more domestic incidents.”
The good news is that, overall, calls for service have slowed.
“When people are hunkered down and not around others, less issues tend to arise,” Empey said. “There’s less people out and about, less people shopping, less people on the road. Certain things slow down, but sometimes when people are cooped up, disputes within the home rise.”
Local police have changed the way they’re responding to many call as well — all in the name of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Scott County dispatch is screening callers before connecting them with local departments, Empey said.
“They’re asking medical questions — if anybody has fevers, coughs, symptoms of COVID-19,” Empey said. “If they do or don’t, they’re sending us that information so we have an idea when we respond to a scene.”
Officers are taking preventative measures out in the field, too. It’s become common for Jordan officers to first ask individuals if they’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 when they arrive on scene. Social distancing is also practiced.
“We’re trying to keep our distance as much as we can, we’re trying to limit our in-person contact as much as possible wIth the public. We’re trying to stay 6-10 feet away at minimum.”
Non-emergency, non-violent calls like simple theft reports are being handled over the phone, when possible. Jordan police are no longer assisting Ridgeview Ambulance Service on every medical call, either. Instead, they’re opting to only respond to the most serious medical calls.
“If the situation is life-threatening in any way shape or form, or could become life-threatening, we will respond,” Empey said. “...We’re trying to do those types of things as much as possible so we can prevent exposure.”
One of the department’s biggest preventive measures is keeping three officers and a records technician home on “preventative sick leave” for two weeks.
“It’s strictly preventative, no one is sick,” Empey said. “But in the event that something does hit our PD it could spread very quick and I need able bodies to be able to plug in place of those who may be sick.”
Two of the three officers are school resource officers that would usually be staffed at Jordan Public Schools and Minnesota River Valley Special Education Co-Operative, but those buildings are shut down for the time being. When those four return on March 31, four other staff will be placed on preventative sick leave.
“They’re directed to basically quarantine at home as much as possible,” Empey said. “We asked them not to leave their homes unless they have things they seriously need to take care of. We’re asking them not to do social things at this point.”
Police officers are also asked to disinfect squad cars between shifts and take their temperature every day before arriving at work.
“We’re responding a little bit differently than we have in the past just out of necessity to keep being able to provide those essential services to our residents,” Empey said.