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LAPD officers getting temperatures checked before each shift

Officials have been watching the spread of COVID-19 through the NYPD and aim to curb the same in Los Angeles

Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department is taking the temperatures of its officers as they arrive for their shifts to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus inside the department, which has seen 26 employees test positive.

Anyone with a temperature will be sent home immediately and directed to get medical treatment. “We are taking every step to ensure officers’ health,” Assistant Chief Horace Frank said.

Department roll calls are now conducted with officers spaced far apart to ensure social distancing as part of efforts to get as many officers as possible working. Those with even slight signs of illness have been ordered to stay home, Frank said.

Workspaces are now frequently sanitized, and officers are equipped with N-95 masks and gloves and goggles to use in the field if needed.

The LAPD continues to test more of its 13,000 employees, and 26 have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. Four are department leaders.

LAPD managers, however, are concerned with the scenario unfolding in New York City with the nation’s largest police department. More than 800 officers there have tested positive for the virus, and more than 4,700 officers — about 12% of the force — have been calling in sick daily.

Three NYPD employees have died, and John Miller, chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism, is among those who have been hospitalized. In each case of a positive officer, it has forced those around them to self-quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

LAPD numbers remain relatively small by comparison. But some officers expressed frustration with commanders in the LAPD’s Central Division after, sources told the Los Angeles Times, an officer who later tested positive was exhibiting symptoms at work for two days before being sent home. The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was “coughing and sweating” during roll call in Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., sources said.

The officer, according to the LAPD, was sent home once supervisors became aware of his illness. According to the sources, six officers in Central, however, have since tested positive for the virus.

The source of the infection isn’t known for sure.

Police Chief Michel Moore is now sending a daily briefing to his officers on the latest on the coronavirus, and he and his commanders have planned out scenarios in which up to 30% and perhaps even half the department calls in sick. These are worst-case scenarios, and officials do not think it will get that bad.

Officers in many locations this week began switching to 12-hour shifts to bolster the number on patrol and to provide security at eight homeless shelters. The department has already transferred hundreds of detectives to patrol functions.

Moore said that in the last few weeks the department had entirely mobilized. Vacation days have been canceled, unnecessary assignments and operations have been put aside, and everyone has been assigned to concentrate on essential public safety functions.

With gatherings now limited to 10 or fewer people, the department’s officers over the weekend received calls from residents about several gatherings or parties where people were crowded into small spaces.

In South L.A., a small number of officers dispersed a gathering where they found about 10 people in the frontyard and 40 to 50 people in the backyard for what was a toddler’s birthday party. No arrests were made.

Crime in Los Angeles fell sharply in March as the city imposed strict new rules on residents and businesses. Violent offenses in the city dropped 14% and property crime declined 12% through March 25 compared with the same period last year, according to figures from the Los Angeles Police Department. The department had reported single-digit reductions before this month.