March 27, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at


Focus on Florida

For this issue of the PERF Daily COVID-19 Report, PERF asked five police chiefs and two sheriffs in Florida to describe the issues they are facing and actions they are taking to reduce the threats to their officers and their communities.


Miami Beach Chief Rick Clements:

COVID Hit Florida at the Worst Possible Time

The COVID-19 crisis hit us during the peak time of the Spring Break period, so it was a challenge. And it’s not like turning off the lights in a room and saying, “The party’s over.” The reality was that we had a lot of people who were already here, and they weren’t paying attention to our warnings. Many people thought that the virus only affects older people and said, “This doesn’t affect me.”

So our staffing plan was already on steroids to deal with the number of young people who were down here, and then the administration asked us to shut it down and get people off the beaches as quickly and efficiently as we could. This was incredibly challenging all the way from March 16th to the 23rd, that whole week.

Now our beaches are totally closed. There’s no one out there, and we have a constant presence there. We have 7 miles of beachfront area that we monitor and control. Every hotel in Miami Beach except for one is also closed. In my 30 years in law enforcement, that’s never happened, even during hurricanes. Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are all closed, except for restaurants with take-out or delivery capabilities.


Sheriff Ric Bradshaw:

We’re Screening Everyone Who Enters Our Jail

We have an infectious disease control doctor and nurses outside our jail, and no prisoner comes into the jail if they show any symptoms of COVID. If they show symptoms, we’ll take them to a facility to have them tested. Our screening process has worked very well so far, and we haven’t had any inmates in our jail test positive.

We do have two corrections officers who traveled outside the country and have tested positive, one of whom is in critical condition. We had to quarantine 40 other people who had been in contact with those two officers. Those people were all tested and sent home, and once the tests come back, they can go back to work if they’re negative.

Right now, it’s taking us 3 to 4 days to get test results back


Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood:

Our Deputies Need Health Information to Keep Themselves Safe

We’ve had difficulty getting health information about 911 callers to our officers because of HIPAA concerns, but the Florida surgeon general has just ordered health officials to provide every Public Safety Answering Point with up-to-date information on a daily basis. We’re loading those addresses into our CAD system, so that deputies will know if they’re responding to a call where someone has tested positive for COVID. We’re also looking backwards 30 days to see if any first responders have responded to addresses where someone has tested positive for COVID. We fought hard for this information because we want our deputies to have all the information they need to keep themselves and others safe.

My big concern is our communications center, because we’re in deep trouble if it goes down. We’re checking everyone’s temperature before they enter the communications center, and if their temperature is 100.4 or above, we won’t let them into the center. We’ve also installed a blue-light germ and virus killer system.


Tampa Chief Brian Dugan:

COVID Test Results Can Take a Day, or a Week

We got ahead of this fairly early, and we have an occupational nurse assigned to Tampa Fire/Rescue, who helps us a lot. In our department, we had 7 employees who had come back from a cruise, plus 3 who were back from international travel, another 15 who had a line-of-duty exposure, plus 10 people who had symptoms. Our occupational nurse screened these people, and as of today, we have 30 under quarantine and 15 who we call “actively monitored,” which means they check in with the nurse daily to check their symptoms.

Our quarantine means it’s a two-week quarantine at home, and they’re supposed to isolate themselves from everyone, including their family members. We currently have 9 officers awaiting test results, and one of them came back positive yesterday. That is a young officer, 26 years old, with a wife and a child, who obviously are also exposed, and we’re monitoring them.

Wexler: How long does it take you to get COVID test results for your employees?

Chief Dugan: It depends. It took a week for us to get the results about the officer yesterday. But we had another situation, where we’re trying to get about 25 recruits out of the Academy onto the streets. They’re supposed to finish tomorrow. We’ve been trying to do social distancing as much as we can, but one of the recruits in the Academy came down with the symptoms. He went straight to the hospital, and we were able to do an emergency testing, which only took about 4 hours. Fortunately, that officer came back negative, so we can go ahead and try to get these 25 new officers out on the street.

We’re seeing a general slowdown in crime, but in some neighborhoods, we’ve had an uptick in gun violence. The bars and clubs are closed, so there’s no place for people to hang out other than the street corners. Everyone knows where the rival crew or gang members are. We had two shootings last Friday, with 30 rounds fired in each incident. A total of 6 people were shot.


Bradenton Chief Melanie Bevan:

We Noticed an Increase in Suicide Calls

My staff and I just noticed an increase in calls for suicide over the past two weeks, so I compared it to the same time period over the previous two years and found that we had three times as many calls for suicide this year. Our community partners hadn’t picked up on the increase yet, but they’re responding quickly to address the issue.

Internally, we’re trying to reduce the impact all this is having on our officers. We’ve put up posters all over the building about how to get assistance. And supervisors are calling every single officer to find out if they need anything, whether it’s anything from mental health services or toilet paper. We want to know what we can do to help them through this time.

Officers are afraid right now, especially those with young kids. They worry about being put in harm’s way by responding to calls for service. We’ve minimized the number of calls we’re responding to, but there are still times when we have to respond and go in. Our officers are willing to do it, but it has a profound impact on them. Then they go home and talk to their families, who also worry about their loved ones going into situations where they could be exposed to the virus.


Clearwater Chief Dan Slaughter:

I’m Concerned About Preventing the Virus From Hitting Our Communications Center

By the time we got the order to shut down the beaches, I think a lot of citizens were expecting it. As we started telling people they had to leave, they didn’t fight it as much as I expected. They said, “Yeah, I though this was coming. We were just waiting for it to happen.” 

The thing that I’m struggling with is that there really is no great contingency plan for our communications center. We have the capability for phone calls to be received at a Regional 911 Center or secondary PSAP that backs us up, but we don’t have a consolidated CAD system, which is something I’ve been advocating for.

I’m concerned that if a lot of people start getting sick, you have so many preventative days of quarantine. Especially at the Communications Center, if someone comes up positive, that’s the whole enchilada. So we’re really trying to maintain social distancing as much as we can in the building and encouraging people to limit their off-duty contacts.

We’re migrating now to an order that isn’t a hard stay-at-home order, but puts a little more pressure on the business owners and people to control their gatherings. But do you really want to send your officers to break up a 100-person party and expose your officers to 100 people right now? These are some of the decisions we’re having to make. We squeezed the balloon in closing the beach, but when we closed the beach, people jumped on their boats on the international coastal waterways.

Testing is very frustrating. I have a person who holds a critically important position on my team, and he had severe flu-like symptoms. We were able to get him tested, but we’re waiting 10 days for the result. I should have told everybody that he’s an NBA player.

Officers’ morale is better than I would have expected in this situation, but as this goes on for weeks, I’m worried about the impact it will have on the psyche of our personnel, especially if they start to have family members who get sick.


Fort Walton Beach Chief Robert Bage:

Smaller Agencies Need to Plan for Staffing Shortages

We have about 50 sworn officers, so each person is about 2% of our department. We planned for how much of our workforce we could lose before we couldn’t function on our own, and we think that if we lost about 40% of the department, we’d have to call in extra resources from the sheriff’s office.

We’ve looked at stretching the workweek and stretching the hours for our civilian employees. There’s not a big difference between a Saturday and a Wednesday or between different hours right now, so we can expand the days and workweeks to bring people into the office at different times. To avoid spreading the infections within the department, we’re trying to only have one person in the office at a time in each section of the department.


How Has COVID-19 Impacted Crime

Tuesday’s “Question of the Day” asked our members how the outbreak has impacted crime in their jurisdictions.

Respondents reported that most violent crime was staying stable or decreasing. The exception was domestic violence, which several police executives said had increased in their jurisdictions. Topeka, KS Chief Bill Cochran said that his agency has seen 5-10 more domestic violence calls than usual per day. Saco, ME Chief Jack Clements has seen a similar trend:

“Calls involving domestic violence and family arguments are starting to increase. This appears to be due to people not going to work, the stress related to possibly losing their jobs/income, and being confined in their residence with each other. The domestic violence calls also appear to be linked to more alcohol consumption.”

And areas that haven’t seen a change are closely monitoring their domestic violence statistics for a sign of an increase.

PERF received a mixed response about property crime, with some agencies reporting increases, some decreases, and others not seeing any change. El Portal, FL Chief David Magnusson said his agency has seen an increase in “porch pirates.”

Apex, NC Chief John Letteney has concerns about traffic safety in his town:

“We have seen an increase in drinking related activities (public consumption, DWI, etc.) as well as a noticeable increase in aggressive driving. With less traffic on the roadways, as well as an increase in the baseline of stress and anxiety, reckless driving, speeding and other moving violations seem to have increased.”


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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