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How the Portland Police Bureau is handling the COVID-19 pandemic

In a phone conference on Friday, Chief Jamie Resch answered questions about how PPB is handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Police Bureau's main goals are as they have always been: investigating crimes and taking calls for service. The bureau's also working closely in a support role with the Emergency Operations Centers as the situation changes day to day in the city of Portland.

While PPB is handling the intake of calls differently and encouraging the community to report via the internet and phone calls predominantly, Chief Resch wants to assure the public that all calls are being handled.

PPB is also limiting the number of people officers are taking to jail. Only felonies and mandatory arrests, like domestic violence cases, are being taken to jail. All misdemeanor offenders are given a criminal citation. This effort was made in conjunction with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

Once cited, a court date will be given to the offender and it is up to the DA to follow through, according to PPB Lt. Tina Jones.

RELATED: Portland police disbands two Street Crimes Units due to staffing shortages

On March 16, PPB created an internal incident management team whose "main goal is to focus on the COVID response plan and manage our resources," said Resch.

Though workforce numbers are not a concern at this time, Resch said the bureau is prepared if it becomes a problem. Road officers are issued personal protective equipment as part of their normal equipment. They are trained in the use of the N95 respirator masks and may wear them if reporting to scenes.

Prioritization of calls has not changed, just the intake methods. With these new methods, calls for service are down 14.6% from last week, said Chief Resch, but still up 6.3% from this time last year.

Within its walls, PPB has prepared all of its sworn in members who are able to transition to the street to take calls if needed, but at this time the number of officers who are out ill is on track with this time of year. Chief Resch said Friday that she is not personally aware of any PPB member being tested for COVID-19, nor testing positive.

“We really have to use a common-sense approach when it comes to these situations,” said Resch.

RELATED: Portland police will stop responding in person to calls that aren’t life-threatening, citing coronavirus concerns

A positive test is protected health information and not mandatory to express, but Resch said she hoped someone would share that information so PPB could take the steps to notify anyone who may have been exposed. PPB has been encouraging all employees who feel ill to stay home.

PPB is practicing social distancing within its walls, cleaning its precinct and desk areas more often, limiting the number of employees in one space at one time and trying to reduce its contact with the public as much as possible to avoid inadvertently spreading the virus or contracting it.

Officers are out conducting focused patrols of our local businesses, especially those who have temporarily closed. #pdxcovid19 #WeGotThisPDX

Heading into what Portlanders may know as “protest season,” there has been no official word on limiting or banning protests. Resch said she is confident in the bureau’s ability to handle the issue based on prior experience.

Resch is in constant communication with Ted Wheeler’s office and stressed the need to be fluid during this time as information about the spread of the virus and the precautions the city is taking day to day.

Met with questions of mental health crisis or domestic violence Resch and Jones said they have been messaging out information about domestic and mental health hotlines. If you feel like your life is in danger you are encouraged to call 911, Resch said.

Resources if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or are in a home experiencing domestic violence:

Hotline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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