For today’s report, PERF interviewed three police chiefs with whom we spoke early in the pandemic: Kirkland, Washington Chief Cherie Harris, whom we interviewed for our first COVID-19 Report on March 17; and Aurora, Illinois Chief Kristen Ziman and Detroit Chief James Craig, who shared their experiences with testing positive for COVID-19 in our April 1 report.

All three are from states that have seen recent increases in cases:




Source: New York Times


Kirkland, Washington Chief Cherie Harris

We have just gone back to an increased stay-at-home order through December 16. The governor made the announcement Sunday. There will be no more eating in restaurants. You will still be able to get food delivery, but there will definitely be significant changes for the public. Retail stores are very limited in who they can have inside their stores. They can do delivery or pickup. We’re back to Day One of increased stay-at-home orders.

At the police department, we’re looking at who we’ve allowed to come back into work who is not essential to be in their office. Like most agencies, we’ve instituted protocols where detectives are split into two teams and are rotating in and out of the office. And there are two different work groups working from home and working at the office, so that we’re not exposing the entire department if one person gets COVID. So we’re looking at who needs to be here, who can work from home, and how we can facilitate that work from home.

Records personnel were having a difficult time doing all of our in-custody reviews from the night before at home, so we had allowed two records employees to come in each day to review in-custodies. We still get communications via fax, and we’ve seen a huge increase in concealed weapons permit requests and background checks for gun purchases. They’re really having difficulties with connectivity and being able to access different files while working at home. So we allowed two people to come in and we spread them out within their work area. We have not had any additional exposures from doing that.

Since we last spoke, we now have rapid testing capabilities. We have one COVID-positive officer who was exposed off-duty in August and still has not returned to work. He was not hospitalized, but he was fairly ill. And we just had one corrections officer who tested positive.  He was not exposed at work, and luckily, he had been on vacation and not at work for some time. We just got those results, and he is ill but has not been hospitalized.

Otherwise we’ve been incredibly lucky. Officers have worn their personal protective equipment and we have really reduced the number of people in quarantine. The one COVID-positive officer in August put 20 other officers in quarantine. He’s a very outgoing peer support and crisis intervention officer, and he liked to hug people. That was a good learning experience for everyone.

Everyone is tired of the restrictions and wants to go back to working normally. The spike that we’ve seen in our county and state has put a stop to that and is rolling us back to where we were before.


Aurora, Illinois Chief Kristen Ziman

When my mayor, my deputy chief, and I were diagnosed in March, it was right at the beginning as we were planning for the pandemic that we saw coming at us. We sought to develop some contingency plans if the pandemic took hold in our police department. We were looking specifically at public safety, and determined that we would move to the contingency plan once the mayor declared a state of emergency.

Once the mayor did that, we had officers go to 12-hour shifts, implemented digital roll calls, cancelled all training, and were just responding to 9-1-1 calls and doing the best we could using PPE. We really tried to limit contact with our community.

In the beginning, we were fortunate and only four of us tested positive. Then we didn’t see any more cases in our department. There was no surge and, like most places across the nation, our numbers started to go down.

We went back to 8-hour shifts, resumed roll calls, and resumed our mandatory training. Resuming mandatory training was important because that included scenario-based training for civil unrest in riot gear. It was important that we weigh the risk of catching the virus with the risk of having our officers untrained out in the city. And on May 31, we saw our town burned and squad cars set on fire. So it was a difficult decision to call people back for training, but we knew we really had to get officers back for training should civil unrest occur again.

It wasn’t until the last few weeks that we saw a surge in our police department. We have 10-15 positives right now. We went back to digital roll calls and cancelled all training again. We have not gone to 12-hour shifts.

I have noticed that our people testing positive now don’t seem to be quite as sick as those of us who tested positive in the beginning. My deputy chief was in the hospital several times and my mayor was down for several months. I don’t know why that is, but fortunately these cases have not required people to be hospitalized.

So right now we’re on the precipice of whether we shut everything down again and go back to “emergency mode” with 12-hour shifts. Our governor just said we could be on the verge of another lockdown. If cases continue to surge, I have a feeling that’s where we’re headed.

When we went to 12-hour shifts the first time, it was more of a precautionary measure. Now that we’re seeing such an increase in cases, I have to monitor the workforce very carefully. We’re watching the surge, and as we continue to get more positive cases, we’re going to take it on a case-by-case basis and look at whether we’re able to cover the streets.

Our administrative staff has come back to work. We had a hybrid model, with half working in person and half working from home on laptops. There were IT issues and other issues, and we were falling behind on our reporting, answering subpoenas, and generally everything in records. We’ve called everyone back, moved them so that they’re six feet apart from one another, and are mandating masks. The records division really didn’t work for us with people working remotely. If it comes to it, we’ll probably move them to different rooms around the building before having them work remotely.


Detroit Chief James Craig

Detroit was ravaged at one point by the number of new cases. Now Western Michigan and rural areas are seeing more cases. Wayne County [where Detroit and many suburbs are located] is below the statewide average, but we are seeing a dramatic increase.

Like most places, we saw a decline after the initial peak of COVID.  And during the 100+ days of protests, the infection rate wasn’t soaring like many anticipated it would. The protesters weren’t wearing masks. We weren’t as rigorous about making the officers wear masks, just because of what they were dealing with. And we didn’t get any infections.

Now, things have changed dramatically. I think many of our officers are getting infected through social interactions and travel.

During the prior peak, I had as many as 650 members of the department quarantined. I was very aggressive about it, maybe in part because I had it and I know the impact. I don’t regret that decision, because it was the right thing to do and we just didn’t know enough about it. I don’t think we’ll get back to the point where we have 650 people quarantined, just because we’ve learned so much.

During that peak, we collapsed specialized support entities and put them into response units. We only handled critical calls for service, and reports could go through our telephone crime reporting unit. Our communications center was hit badly, including one of our members who died from COVID. Fortunately, when we built our new communications center, we left the preexisting center as a backup. We were able to quickly transition into the backup. I didn’t go to 12-hour shifts, and we were able to get through it without a hiccup.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve seen a rapid case increase among sworn and civilian department members. Since the beginning of COVID, we’ve had 441 test positive. I currently have 58 with COVID, which is troubling. Two of the 58 are in hospitals. And 48 of those 58 are sworn. We currently have 86 in quarantine, 70 of whom are sworn. And that number is going up daily.

If we get back to where we were during the first peak, I would adopt the same strategy that worked well for us the first time. I didn’t move to 12-hour shifts, but if this increase goes even higher, that may be something that I’ll consider.


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.