As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States continues to increase, law enforcement agencies across the nation have had to abruptly change the way they perform their duties. According to The Washington Post, police officers are now exercising more discretion when enforcing laws. For instance, police officers are now handing criminal citations, rather than incarcerating individuals. Rest assured, serious offenses are not being ignored, but offenses that are considered minor infractions are being handled differently by law enforcement officers in an effort to not only protect the public, but also to protect themselves. According to a survey of 40 law enforcement agencies conducted by the Associated Press, as of March 27, 690 law enforcement employees (police officers and civilians) across the country have tested positive for COVID-19; a number that has surely increased since the data was released. According to the New York Times, in New York City, the epicenter of the virus, 1 out of 6 police officers is either out sick or in quarantine. The Hill also reported that more than 1,400 law enforcement officers in New York City have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 1st. The deaths of law enforcement officers and other employees have also been reported across the country. The impact that the law enforcement agencies has felt across the country has been severe. Efforts are being undertaken in order to ensure that communities are still protected and the resources are still available. The Associated Press reports that in addition to the deep cleaning efforts recommended by the CDC and the distribution of very limited protective equipment, police academies are also accelerating coursework in order to provide reinforcements to agencies who need the back-up. Some agencies, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, had already begun shifting detectives to patrol work a few weeks ago, but other agencies may soon follow in order to replace the large number of police officers who have called out sick. Despite the reported drops of serious and violent crime due to imposed stay-at-home orders in some cities, the COVID-19 pandemic has “added a new level of risk and anxiety” to police work.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.
The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: What are some of the approaches that law enforcement agencies are taking in order to protect their officers/employees and the public?
- Debate: The pandemic has added a new level of risk and anxiety to police work.
- Poll: Do you believe that law enforcement agencies should continue to relax the enforcement of laws across the country in order to reduce exposure?
- Short Answer: Why has serious and violent crime during the pandemic decreased?
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