Wisconsin Law Enforcement Agencies Adapt To COVID-19 Pandemic

Agencies Attempt To Increase Social Distancing By Making Changes To Operations

A police officer wears a mask and gloves.
A Madison Police Officer demonstrating the use of personal protective equipment. Photo courtesy of the Madison Police Department 

Law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin are making changes to the way they operate in order to increase social distancing in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Milwaukee Police Department Civilian Employee Tests Positive

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) released a statement Monday afternoon confirming that a civilian member of the department has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

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“This employee’s role within the Milwaukee Police Department did not involve any direct contact with the public, therefore there is no reason to believe that the public was placed at risk while this individual was at work,” said Sgt. Sheronda Grant, MPD public information officer.

The MPD is making a number of changes in an attempt to increase social distancing, including closing the forensics division and the open records section offices to the public. The department is also asking the public to avoid coming to district locations in person, and report incidents over the phone when possible.

According to the statement, people might begin to see officers wearing personal protective equipment. This is to ensure officer safety, said Grant, and people shouldn’t panic or fear.

Madison Officers Equipped With Personal Protective Equipment

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The Madison police has also canceled routine fingerprinting and civilian ride alongs for the time being. Officers have been instructed to handle incidents over the phone when possible. The department is also exploring options for some personnel to work from home.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are now prohibited by state and county orders, with a few exceptions. If called to a gathering that was in violation of these restrictions, Madison police officers will ask people to voluntarily comply with the order before enforcement is considered. Acting Chief Vic Wahl said he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We want to focus on the greater good and it’s important that our officers are spending their time on things really important and not having to deal with people who aren’t gonna comply with these orders,” he said.

At the Dane County Jail, measures have also been put into place to prevent the virus from spreading. All jail visits have been suspended until at least April 1, with the exception of attorney visits. Anyone booked into the jail is being screened by jail medical staff.

Other Law Enforcement Changes Include:

  • The Middleton Police Department has canceled department tours, public ride alongs and fingerprinting, and postponed the Citizen’s Academy.
  • The Brown County Sheriff’s Office has canceled all jail visits, with the exception of attorney visits. All public fingerprinting and ride alongs are canceled, as well as community and school presentations. Drug takeback at the Sheriff’s Office facilities is also canceled.
  • The Rock County Sheriff’s Office is monitoring at least one inmate for signs of COVID-19, and are providing updates on Facebook.