March 17, 2020


Following is the first edition of PERF’s Daily COVID-19 report. Let’s begin with news from Kirkland, Washington:

Kirkland, WA Police Chief Cherie Harris interview and report

Cherie Harris is Chief of Police in Kirkland, WA, where at least 26 COVID-19 deaths have been associated with the Life Care nursing home.

Chief Harris sent PERF a four-page summary of the Kirkland Police Department’s policies, protocols, and activities during the emergency, available here.

PERF Executive Director also conducted a brief interview with Chief Harris:

Wexler: How are you doing?

Chief Harris: Things are still very busy. We have the highest death rate in our state because of [the Life Care] facility. That facility now has support, so there is a reduction in how often they have to use our Fire Department, and we have seen a reduction in the number of 911 calls. Fortunately, as of today, we have not had any Kirkland police officers test positive. We did have four who ended up in quarantine, and we had about 30 firefighters who were in quarantine. There’s been one positive test on the fire side, and so far no police officers have tested positive. And we now have full PPE for them, glasses, masks, gloves, and gowns. We are taking steps to try to reduce the risk to officers. Dispatch is doing a lot of screening on calls; we’re asking people to come outside for non-emergency situations; we’re wearing full PPE if we have to go into a facility for a death investigation.

The whole system is overwhelmed in Seattle/King County. There are not enough hospital beds. My recommendation to any other police chief is to be ready to work with your Fire Department very closely. But as far as getting support from your county or the state, it becomes overwhelmed. When something is happening everywhere, it becomes problematic to get support from large agencies, because they’re trying to support everyone.

Wexler: Are you feeling that things are still getting worse?

Chief Harris: I believe this is going to get worse before it gets better. They’re now able to test more people, so the number of positive tests will continue to grow. Some of the steps that are being taken in Washington State and other parts of the country will help. Today our governor said that everything needs to be closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants that do take-out. We’re closing gyms, closing movie theaters, and limiting the number of people who can congregate to 50.1 All of our schools are closed until the end of April. These things are happening across the country, and the purpose is to try to level out the number of critical cases in the hospitals. But every day we’re getting additional reports of increases in positive tests and increases in deaths, so I think it’s going to be a couple months before it’s better.

Today we’ve been working on instituting a voluntary self-screening. We’re going to put thermometers at the front and back doors of the police department. We’re asking officers to do some self-monitoring, so they can take their temperature and consider their symptoms before they walk in the door.

We’re also working on a way to allow our Records staff to work from home. This is important because one records staff member testing positive at work could quarantine everyone.

Wexler: Have you put officers on 12-hour shifts?

Chief Harris: We’ll be meeting this week to have a plan for switching to 12-hour shifts. The union contract allows me to do this, and our union has been very supportive, so we’re going to meet and discuss how that would work. I want to have that plan in our back pocket.

Wexler: Did you have enough masks and equipment?

Chief Harris: We opened the Emergency Operations Center on Feb. 29, so we’re a little ahead of the rest of the country, and we made some orders for equipment that day. The need for masks is pretty high. Just in my city, we have three adult homes that all have positive COVID patients and multiple patients, and they’ve had deaths. So our burn rate with equipment is a little bit higher. We’re trying to be very careful about reusing PPE if it’s not really a COVID call. But how crazy is that to tell a cop to reuse a mask if it wasn’t really a COVID call? But these are crazy times.


Several other PERF members provided their latest information to the Daily COVID-19 report:

Tampa, Florida Chief Brian Dugan: Starting immediately, Communications will ask three questions of callers in which the first responders will come in contact. 1. Have you or anyone in your household come in contact with someone who tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last 30 days? 2. Have you had a fever or cough in the last 3 days? 3. Have you traveled out of the country within the last 30 days? We are adding Study Codes for notification and tracking purposes.

If the caller responds “yes” to any of these three questions, Communications will enter CY (COVID-19 Questions =YES) in the “Study Code” before sending the call.

Marshal Richard Berkowitz, DeKalb County Marshal's Office, Atlanta: We are following our Continuity of Operations plan developed years ago for a Pandemic. I made the decision today to suspend all evictions and non-critical field operations (civil process delivery and warrant apprehensions). I did this for humanitarian reasons and for the safety of my deputies and the public.

Multnomah County, OR Sheriff Mike Reese: We are working with our public safety partners to reduce the jail population. Mitigation strategies include cite-in-lieu of custody for all misdemeanors (except domestic violence), releasing people who have less than 30 days left on a sentence, and moving more people onto pretrial out-of-custody supervision.

Thanks to all PERF members who are sharing information with us.


1 “Restaurants, bars, fitness studios to close in WA, and events capped at 50 due to COVID-19.” NPR, March 15, 2020.

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