March 31, 2020


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


Today, let’s begin with something hopeful.

In today’s COVID-19 Report, we’re going to start with something that we think will give you a sense of optimism and hope. It’s a video that’s going around, in which Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City discusses “How to Protect Your Family.”

The video is nearly an hour long, but you can get the most important points by watching from 4:40 to 15:20. In short, Dr. Price says that “we’ve learned a lot over the last couple weeks about how you get this disease,” and “the overwhelming majority of people are getting this through physically touching someone who has this disease or will develop it in the next one to two days, and then touching their face.”

This risks of inhaling the virus after an infected person sneezes, or picking up the virus from a door handle or other object, are far lower and can be managed by self-quarantining, using hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes when you must leave your home, and wearing a face mask to remind yourself not to touch your face, Dr. Price says.

“That is, I think, incredibly empowering,” he says. “The thing that makes me smile a little bit is that I know I won’t get this disease, because I know how to protect myself.”


Next, let’s check in again with sheriffs.

Following are a number of developments we have heard from PERF member sheriffs. Many sheriffs are actively working to bring down their jail populations, in order to reduce the likelihood of inmates and employees being infected with the coronavirus.

They also told us about other innovative strategies they are implementing that are applicable to police agencies as well as sheriffs’ offices – such as using principles of wellness to help people deal with the enormous stresses that COVID is creating in communities everywhere.


Hennepin County, MN Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Rob Allen:

People Are Stressed, So We Instruct Officers  To Look for Underlying Issues in Neighborhood Disputes

Our Tri-Wellness program (Mind, Body, and Spirit) started out of the sheriff’s concern for the well-being of his employees. As we met to make sure Tri-Wellness would meet our employees’ needs during this pandemic, it became clear to us that our community would be facing a lot of the same challenges during these tough times.

Many people are going to have friends or family members who become ill or die of this pandemic, and many people are facing major life disruptions.

Our idea was to take what we’ve learned from helping employees, and put that out to the community. We had already seen an increase in domestic violence and “check the welfare” mental health calls. We want to help address those issues if we can.

In our messaging to our officers, we emphasize that they should be looking out for underlying issues at every call.

For example, is it really just a neighborhood parking dispute, or is there some underlying tension that we can help to resolve? If we put people on the phone with social workers, might we be able to defuse some future problems as well?

Keeping the virus out of the jail

We’re also reducing our jail population to protect inmates against the virus. Two weeks ago, our population was about 850 people. As of Friday morning, we were down to 532. We’ve worked with judges, prosecutors, and public defenders to review each inmate and determine whether each one really needs to be in our jail. If we can postpose something, we will. And if it’s a matter of a state-required $78 bail, we’ll pay the $78 to get them out of there and have them come back at some later time.

As we reduced our jail population, we had a few people who didn’t have secure housing lined up and were reluctant to leave our facility. In a couple of cases we said they could stay, and in other cases we worked with our county’s housing services to find them a safer housing situation.

Everyone who enters our facility is screened by our medical personnel. If we have reason to believe someone has come into contact with somebody with the virus, or if they’re displaying any symptoms, we can put them into isolation.


Dane County, WI Sheriff Dave Mahoney:

We’ve Been Using Hospital-Type Robots To Disinfect Our Jail

For a week now we’ve been disinfecting areas of the jail using high-intensity UV emitting robots generally used in hospitals and surgical suites to fight MERS, SARS, and other respiratory illnesses. The robots are manufactured by Skytron in Michigan, and NSA has an application into FEMA to get these approved for funding and available to Sheriffs’ offices running jails.

We’ve worked closely with our judges, the DA, and our court commissioners to reduce our jail population almost in half, and worked with our probation and parole office to drop our holds almost in half. So in an 1,100-bed jail, we’re down about 550 today.


St. Mary’s County, MD Sheriff Tim Cameron:

Crime Is Down, But We’re Seeing an Increase In Disorderly Conduct Over Disputes in Stores

Like almost everyone else, we’ve seen a significant decrease in Part I crimes, with the exception of thefts from motor vehicles. That’s something we track through a Compstat process, which we’re now doing with Zoom. Our Part II crimes are also down, with the exception of domestic disputes, domestic assaults, driving under the influence, and disorderly conduct.

The disorderly conduct calls are things like grocery stores that have a limit on how many rolls of toilet paper you can buy, and it becomes a situation. Those calls are up 300%. But calls for service in general are down significantly.

In our jail, we screen everybody in and out, checking their temperature and asking them several questions, such as whether anyone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19 or whether they have certain symptoms.

We’ve looked at our population for older inmates and those with immune deficiencies or other medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable, and we’ve gotten releases for them. Our judges have been great on that. We’ve gone from a total of about 240-250 inmates to 175 today, and we’re looking to reduce that further.


Dakota County, MN Sheriff Tim Leslie:

In Case the Crisis Lasts for Months, We’re Working With Other Counties to Consolidate Our Jails

Chuck Wexler: Tell us about the agreement you entered into with the courts in your jurisdiction, which gives you the authority to “quash” misdemeanor warrants. What has been the impact?

Sheriff Leslie: That has been very helpful with our goal of keeping as many people out of the jail as possible. Normally we average about 240 inmates, and we’re down to 109 today. So reducing that movement of people in and out gives us less chance of internal problems and infecting our staff. We worked with the courts, and our chief judge was able to issue an order allowing the sheriff or his designee to quash misdemeanor warrants.

Also, whenever we get a notice from an adjacent county that they have a person in jail who’s waiting to be brought back to our jail, we just set a new court date for the inmate from afar. We don’t do any transports, which has really been helpful.

I’m also talking with three other counties about consolidating our jail operations. Our numbers are so low that we might be able to shut down one of our jails, which again would reduce the number of employees coming in.

We might possibly use one jail as an intake, and another as a post-sentenced jail with inmates who aren’t coming and going, it would be exit only.

So we’re planning for the future, in case this crisis goes to July or August.


Essex County, MA Sheriff Kevin Coppinger:

14 Sheriffs’ Offices in Massachusetts Are on the Same Page

There are 14 sheriffs in Massachusetts, and we speak frequently. We’re all doing the same things in terms of cleaning our jails 24-7, suspending visitation, educating inmates and staff on proper hygiene and hand-washing, adding more hand-washing stations throughout the facility, etc. We have pretty much locked them down, not in terms of locking the inmates up, but in keeping the general public out to avoid spread of the virus into the jails. Attorney visits are still ongoing, but there are no contact visits.

Our biggest fear is our own staff, because they’re the ones who go home at the end of their shift, so we’re taking precautions with them. We’ve offered our officers N-95 masks and gloves.


Jefferson County, CO Sheriff’s Office Lt. Reggie Marinelli:

By Reducing our Jail Population, We Created Enough Space for an Isolation Floor

Several months ago, we had over 1,300 inmates. That was reduced to 1,171 on January 1, and as of Friday (March 27), we had 760 inmates in our custody.

We have 33 inmates in isolation. Because our population has been lowered, we have an entire floor of our jail that is empty and can be used for isolation.

We have raised the number of days that inmates stay in our classification modules. Normally they are there for five days before being sent into our general population. We’ve increased that to 14 days. So they do not go into our general population for the first 14 days they’re in our facility, and we can monitor their health for all that time.


Charleston County, SC Sheriff Al Cannon:

We Don’t Arrest People from Out of State If They Won’t Be Extradited Anyhow

A lot of agencies are not extraditing people who are arrested in other states. We need to alert other states to that fact. An officer or deputy may act based on an NCIC hit and have an unnecessary and potentially dangerous interaction with someone who won’t be extradited anyway.

I’ve brought this up with CJIS and NCIC, and they’re working on the issues.


Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Emergency Communications Centers

To better understand the impact on Emergency Communications Centers, and what ECC leaders are doing to address these issues, PERF is asking members to please click on this link and complete a brief questionnaire. We may share your responses in an upcoming edition of our PERF Daily COVID-19 Report.


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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