Policing During a Pandemic

The classified ad might read: Looking for college educated applicants who can handle serious on-the-job stress, constant public criticism and loss of co-workers by suicide. Must be skilled in handling firearms, life-and-death conflicts, domestic abuse suspects, the mentally ill and drug addicts. Training in murder, arson, cybercrime and white-collar crime investigations a plus. Must feel comfortable in a bullet proof vest. Average salary: $56,300 a year.

Think about all the hurdles a hopeful police recruit must overcome just to get into a training academy. Think of the potentially deadly challenges a police officer faces every day. Now imagine what it is like for them during this pandemic. In normal times today’s COVID-19 inspired directive to stay six feet apart would be impossible for a street cop.

Rosa Brooks is an American law professor, serving as the Scott K. Ginsburg Professor of Law and Policy at Georgetown University Law Center. She is also a journalist, author and foreign policy expert.
Professor Rosa Brooks, Former D.C. Reserve Officer

Rosa Brooks, a former reserve officer in Washington, D.C. has eloquently written about the enormous amount of physical intimacy officers routinely encounter with members of the public. “During my time on patrol, I put my hands into strangers’ pockets during searches; ran my fingers inside waistbands, bra bands and shoes; put handcuffs onto wrists and held those I was arresting by the arm as I escorted them to the patrol car,” Brooks wrote in the Washington Post. And it wasn’t just a matter of touching other people’s bodies. “People coughed, sneezed, vomited and bled on me,” Brooks said. “Sometimes, they shoved me or spat at me. Other times, they hugged me or cried on my shoulder. A handcuffed, half-dressed woman once asked me to stuff her breasts back into her bodysuit; another time, a shoplifter begged me to help her rinse her feces-stained pants in a supermarket bathroom.”

In today’s pandemic-stricken atmosphere many law enforcement departments are functioning with vastly depleted forces as ever-increasing numbers of virus infected officers call in sick. Those reporting for duty are under orders to approach the job much differently. Routine high-contact patrol practices like stops, searches and arrests have slowed to protect both officers and the public. The arrests that must be made to ensure public safety are done by cops in protective masks and gloves. Patrol cars are sanitized after transporting suspects.

President Barack Obama talks with Sgt. Kimberly Munley, Directorate of Emergency Services, Ft. Hood Police Dept., after delivering remarks at a ceremony honoring the Top Cops award winners in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 14, 2010.   (White House Archive Phonto - Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama Thanks Officers -2010-White House Archive Photo

On the street patrol teams are instructed to try to verbally disperse people who have gathered in large groups, while at the same time keeping their distance. Dispatchers at 911 call centers are asking those seeking help to come outside to meet officers whenever possible. Citizens caught up in violent domestic abuse situations are given priority attention with hotline numbers and free rides to shelters or hotels. Departments are also working remotely to connect charity groups with vulnerable citizens in need of food or medical services. It has become popular in some quarters to vilify those who wear a badge. But for countless needy people, nationwide, it is their local cop shop they call when they become desperate. Police officers have valiantly responded organizing donations to help people suddenly unemployed and delivering food to the elderly, some of which the officers have paid for themselves.

In neighborhoods across the country the local beat cop is a lifeline. They do their jobs stoically realizing that every interaction with co-workers and community members exposes them to possible infection. Every contact increases the risk of carrying the virus home to their families. This is no idle worry. Thousands of law enforcement members have been sickened, multiple dozens have died, and the death toll rises daily.

There is a “Workforce Crisis” in Nation’s Cop Shops

A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic found a “workforce crisis” underway in law enforcement departments nationwide. The report describes how departments are losing members at an alarming rate. The “triple threat” to public safety comes with the exit of officers who want out after only a few years, those seeking early retirement and administrator’s inability to attract new people. Seems the traditional source of recruits – families with a history of police work and former military members – have dried up. The bottom line: now is the time to appreciate, applaud and elevate our frequently maligned members of law enforcement. It’s a front-line profession that was already in staffing jeopardy before the virus hit. We cannot continue to underpay and under appreciate what they do. Society cannot function without them.



  1. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Reader Jayne Irvine writes:

    What a wonderful tribute to our men and women in blue who stand between our civilization and chaos. Every day these many and various people get out there and interact constantly with the ugly side of mankind. Hats off to them for what they do. Thanks for this piece to bring it all to the forefront.

  2. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Reader NavyVet writes:

    I respectfully disagree. They are enforcing unlawful edicts of tyrants. I have no sympathy for the police state enforcers that enable tyrants to deny us our rights and freedom.

    • Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:08 am

      Gregory Hauenstein replies to NavyVet

      Sir you are being short sided and vindictive, I think police have lost the respect because they don’t shoot suspects that run away instead of running them down. There should be a 1 warning and 2nd lethal if they don’t stop. Police should carry a120db voice that says “ you will stop and place your hands on top of your head or you will be shot” all they would have to do is hit a button to get the warning, that would free up their hands to get their weapon.

  3. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:08 am

    Shawn Osborn writes:

    My advice don’t become a police man let people deliver justice then Mayberry will become reality

  4. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Reader Bill Voinovich writes:

    With the shabby treatment they’re getting from the people, and the almost total lack of support from their administration, I’m surprised there are still individuals that WANT to be cops.. GOD BLESS, THANK YOU, and BE SAFE….

  5. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Reader Bill Tierney writes:

    Diane, I’m retired from NJ. We are going back to the 70s, Janitors with guns. /// During the 80s ,the need to “professionalize ” policing became paramount. Pay got better. Benefits better. People with education and extensive military background were applying. The liability of the job changed. The public stopped accepting responsibility for themselves. Political protocol however started to leak into ALL law enforcement. Promoting the most malleable from the records bureau. Things were good for about 25-30 years. Then morons took over political office. Took away pay, benefits. The job became one of no support as those in charge were too weak to stand up for their people. If the financial situation stinks you’re not supported by the administration or the public, why would you put your life at risk. They’re getting what they paid for.NOTHING Analogy being the quality of person is plummeting. No offense to janitors,they work extremely hard.

  6. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Reader Nancy Spieker Robel replies to Bill Tierney:

    It’s true. They have to lower the standards for hiring when college graduates and other qualified people refuse to have such a thankless job.

    • Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      Bill Tierney replies to Nancy Spieker Robel:

      Unmitigated disaster. Glad I’m retired./// For the record, Both sides of the aisle are complicit.

      • Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 12:39 pm

        Nancy Spieker Robel replies to Bill Tierney:

        Glad my husband and I are too. But we have sons still on the job.

  7. Diane Dimond on May 18, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Reader Elizabeth A. Benedetto writes:

    God bless the professional police officer. But good ones must not remain silent on corruption and brutality. No job is worth selling out one’s soul. Silence is complicity. It cannot be considered “normal.” They and Americans deserve better.

  8. Diane Dimond on May 20, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    Reader Eric Essinger writes:


    I just read your piece in the Epoch Times from 5/18/20 titled “Policing During a Pandemic.”

    As a former police officer (I now work as an investigator for a large insurance company), I want to express my sincere thanks. You brought tears to my eyes.

    It doesn’t matter if you work in NY or West Bend, Wisconsin. Police see it all and deal with it all. Your opening paragraphs were so loud as I read them. Alcoholism, PTSD, Divorce, Suicide…all plagues of this profession. A profession that usually starts in high school as a kid with high hopes of making a difference and serving their community. Only to be thrown into a world of hate, thanklessness and anger. It can be defeated for a time, but when it is relentlessly put in their lives EVERY day, it takes a toll.

    I look forward to reading more from you and I’m thankful I subscribed to the Epoch Times this weekend and was subsequently “introduced” to you.

    I wish you all the best.

    Again, thank you!

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