Even though the number of people affected by the novel coronavirus keeps increasing by the day, law enforcement agencies, as makers and maintainers of peace in society, have continued to respond proactively, enforcing traffic laws in their respective communities, unfazed by the additional operational challenges posed by the pandemic.
To protect officers and the general public, some simple considerations were drafted in consultation with some police agencies around the United States. The following are the considerations that police officers are recommended to adopt when making a traffic stop or when conducting a traffic safety initiative is unavoidable.
Procedural Considerations For Making Traffic Stops During COVID-19
Officers who are actively responding to traffic incidents and infractions should consider following the instructions mentioned below.
- Washing And Sanitizing:Make sure you wash your hands promptly and thoroughly after interacting with others. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and follow up with a sanitizer that’s comprised of 70% alcohol, at the very least. These instructions are also to be followed after sneezing or coughing.
- Maintain Their Distance Where Possible:It’s recommended to make sure you maintain a safe distance whenever possible while conducting traffic stops, inspections, or coming into contact with other people. A minimum distance of six feet is recommended. Some examples of maintaining a safe distance while approaching a car are mentioned below:
- Taking statements while standing six feet away.
- Approaching from the passenger side.
- Use of gloves on while duty.
- Usage Of Electronics: It is also recommended to avoid the physical exchange of any documents—such as licenses or registration documents. It is advised to instead capture images of these documents. Similarly, physical signatures are to be avoided, and the use of a PA system is advised in order to give directions.
- Reduce Duration Of Contact:Police officers are advised to reduce the time spent in contact with the driver by reducing the time spent at their window.
- Frequently Sanitize Items You Regularly Touch: Officers are also advised to frequently sanitize the items they touch during the day to minimize the chances of contact with the virus. These items include phones, laptops, pens, patrol car equipment like the steering wheel, gear shifts, and handles of the doors.
- Make Sure The Patrol Car Is Well–Ventilated: It is recommended to drive the patrol car with the windows at least partially open to make sure the car is well ventilated.
- Wear Proper PPE: Make sure you wear proper Personal Protection Equipment in addition to wearing a mask when interacting with others.
- Make Use Of Non-Latex Gloves: Police officers are also advised to wear non-latex gloves, preferably nitrile or vinyl, when making traffic stops. For more instructions and directives, they are to follow guidelines and procedures issued by their agency.
Further Policy Directives For Law Enforcement Executives
Leaders in the police force are advised to consider enforcing the following instructions and directives to modify their agency policy and guide their officers to safely while they respond to traffic incidents and infractions.
In addition, they are advised to consider the guidelines discussed above and decide which ones should be added to their agency policy.
Prepare Your Officers
It is the duty of law enforcement and peace-making agencies to prepare their workforce to defend others and themselves from danger, be it from another person, or a virus. In light of the current situation, here are some guidelines law enforcement agencies can use to prepare their officers to safely respond to traffic infractions.
- Law enforcement agencies need to prioritize the safety of the public. This discussion should also include which non-critical concerns should be dealt with leniently. For example, agencies can limit traffic enforcement for parking violations, inoperable headlights, and expired tags.
- On the other hand, instruct officers to conduct a traffic stop for drivers who are threatening their own and public safety. Officers can also be instructed to tailor traffic enforcement by making stops and inspections only for aggressive violations that cannot be dealt with leniently at any cost.
- Provide necessary training to safely and effectively conduct traffic stops in a way that reduces the chances and duration of contact and thus, reduces the risk to personal health.
- Make sure that officers are as visible to the public as possible in an attempt to discourage unsafe practices or negligence when following SOPs and agency directives.
- Equip the officers with proper personal protection gear, for example, supply them with N95 masks, goggles, nitrile or vinyl gloves, and sanitizers.
Encourage the Use of Technology To Fill In The Gaps
At times like this, it’s best to leverage the use of technology as much as possible. These are just some examples of actions law enforcement agencies can take to increase the use of technology to fill in the gaps caused by the new SOPs and social distancing.
- Agencies should take into consideration the fact that automated enforcement could be useful to help prevent the number and seriousness of infractions.
- Making use of digital speed boards where needed could be useful in reminding drivers of their speed and could help reduce the chances of collision and crashes.
- Using high-quality speed measuring devices to collect data and information regarding the volume of traffic could help agencies analyze the area better and assign proper resources and plans to reduce risks.
- Working with traffic partners—for example, the Highway Safety Office—could increase awareness and remind drivers to practice road safety while also reducing the number of overall infractions. Some examples of road safety measures include:
- Wearing seatbelts and masks.
- Focusing on driving and putting away any phones.
- Staying vigilant and alert for bicycle or motorbike traffic.
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