April 9, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


In today’s COVID-19 Report, we share what police agencies are doing to ensure that elderly persons aren’t forgotten during the COVID pandemic. Many seniors are especially vulnerable, because relatives and friends who normally check in on them may be unable or reluctant to do so, for fear of possibly infecting them with the COVID-19 virus.

But first, we have a brief story from Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, who shared his department’s COVID “heat map” and explained how it helps protect officers and the community. 


Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina Explains How His Department Uses Daily “Heat Maps”

Every day we get updated information from the public health department about locations in our city where we know that someone was COVID-positive. We’re not asking for people’s names, because that gets complicated due to privacy rules about people’s health. We just want to know the location in the city.

We give this information to our Emergency Communications people, and that way it’s flagged when they have to dispatch an officer to a certain location. They’re able to alert the officer that that location had a COVID-positive person. That officer now knows to wear the mask and gloves, to practice social distancing, and not to put their hands on someone if they don’t have to.

We also look at that location retrospectively. So if we dispatched someone there within the last 14 days where they may have made contact with someone, we pull that officer, screen him, and get him tested if he made any kind of lasting contact with anyone there. Did the officers arrest someone? Did they go inside a home? What was the nature of the interaction? Did anyone cough or sneeze? The officer might not have been responding to the person who was ill, because we don’t know the person’s name, but we know the location. And we explain that this is about protecting officers and protecting the public, because we want to know if an officer might have been exposed to the virus and might be contagious but asymptomatic.

Our data scientist takes this information and puts it into the form of a heat map. We obscure the locations so you can’t see exact addresses, because we don’t want anyone to shame someone for being ill. But it’s helpful to know the density of how many people are positive.

And we can track trends and the spread of the virus, as we animate the map. The yellow and red spots show the clusters of positive locations and how the virus is moving through the city.

Some of this information is not surprising to our officers, because they know there have been calls at the hot spot locations, and they’re often in the denser parts of the city with a lot of high-rises. But it helps to make them aware that when they’re in this area, they really need to practice social distancing, use their gloves, wear their mask, and be disciplined about it.


Police Agencies’ Efforts to Protect Seniors


Director Glen Brooks, Office of Community Policing, Chicago Police Department:

We Developed a List of Vulnerable Seniors for Extreme Hot or Cold Weather, And We’ve Used That List to Check on 23,000 Seniors About COVID

In each one of our police districts, we have an officer who’s responsible for seniors, and who develops a list of seniors we come into contact with throughout the year. We usually use that list for extreme heat or extreme cold weather situations, and now we’re using it to do weekly check-in calls with seniors. On those calls, we remind them of the Department of Public Health’s recommendations, ask them if they have any general needs, and connect them with a local social service agency if they need assistance. The calls are also a reminder that someone is paying attention to them and checking in during this.

If we cannot reach someone by telephone, we check on people in person. So far we’ve made about 23,000 phone calls and 3,400 in-person visits.

We’ve also partnered with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on meal delivery services for those who need it.

We are seeing some elderly people who are having a hard time abiding by the stay-at-home order. At some of the senior living facilities, people there have a strong desire to continue to socialize. If there’s an issue, we don’t do enforcement, but we’ll have conversations with the elderly people or the management at those facilities. So far, those conversations have been effective.


Punta Gorda, FL Police Chief Pam Davis:

More Than Half Our Residents Are Over 65, So We’re Reaching Out to Protect Them

At least 56% of our population in Punta Gorda is over the age of 65. Our city is doing a lot of outreach. Our city manager distributes weekly updates, and we have a section of our website with information about COVID-19. I’m sending out updates through our Citizens’ Advisory Council and Business Advisory Council, which represent every neighborhood in the city. We explain the order, why people should stay home, and what is and is not considered essential.

It’s important to use other resources within the community. We partner with our Department of Children and Family Services, county service agencies, and the fire department. The fire department, in particular, knows where a lot of our vulnerable people are. They can share that information, so we make sure we’re reaching out to everyone we need to be reaching out to.

Fraud, particularly targeting elderly residents, is one of the top crime concerns in our city. We’re warning people about fraudulent offers of COVID-19 testing or other scams related to the virus. But we haven’t received many reports of COVID-related fraud since we started our outreach.


Mesa, AZ Police Commander Tim Walker:

Our Community Action Officers Deliver Food, And We Work with Other Organizations to Help Seniors

We’re partnering with local ministries that have outreach programs, and are delivering food boxes to local elderly people. The ministries receive the requests and schedule a delivery time, then our community action officers deliver the food boxes, ring the doorbell, and leave, to avoid contact.

We’re always concerned that we’re going to miss people who fall through the cracks because we never get in touch with them. So we partner with community groups, because they are contacted by some elderly people who might never contact the police.

We also help the United Food Bank hand out food on a weekly basis. Our city just started a program called Mesa CARES, which is an outreach program to provide aid and services. They assigned 100 city employees who were working from home, such as people who work at our libraries and our arts center, to make contact with people by phone, email, or social media, and connect them to city services, nonprofits, and other aid organizations. The city employees are contacting people during the day, seven days a week, and are trying to serve as a support hub to connect people

who need help with people who can provide it. That just started this week, and we think it will be a great way to leverage some city employees who have been ordered to work from home.


Sarasota, FL Police Chief Bernadette DiPino:

PPE Is Especially Important When Officers Interact with Seniors

Whenever we go to hospitals, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities, our officers are using PPE to protect themselves and the people they’re encountering, because we know that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

We’re working with our community partners, such as Meals on Wheels. Our city is looking into using city employees to help deliver meals.

We are also doing outreach to various facilities to see if there are any specific needs they have.

Our governor’s order specified that people 65 and older should shelter in place, which impacts some of our police department employees and volunteers. I immediately suspended our volunteer program to limit our volunteers’ potential exposure. And we’ve allowed our employees who are 65 and older to work from home.




Department of Homeland Security: COVID-19 Exposure and Risk Mitigation Best Practices for Law Enforcement

This DHS document, which was reviewed by Dr. Alexander Eastman, provides resources and guidance on reducing law enforcement officers’ COVID-19 risks while on the job. Click here to view the report.


Bureau of Justice Assistance Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program

From the Bureau of Justice Assistance:

The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program will provide funding to assist eligible states, local units of government, and tribes in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the coronavirus.

Allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to, overtime, equipment (including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment), hiring, supplies (such as gloves, masks, sanitizer), training, travel expenses, and addressing the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.

Click here to view the solicitation, which closes on May 29.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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