The Lac La Biche RCMP Detachment has had to make significant changes due to the effects of COVID-19 over the last week, say local police officials, including the additional measure of decontamination being added to their daily interactions with the public.
Officers arriving at a scene could be wearing gloves and facemasks, says Lac La Biche RCMP Staff Sgt. Jerry Nutbrown.
"We are taking measures to protect all our employees so the public may see RCMP members and staff wearing masks and gloves," he told the POST, adding that residents calling for police assistance should identify if they are showing signs of illness or if the person they are reporting is showing signs of illness. "This is so our members can take proper precautions should we need to be in close contact with anyone."
Those precautions will vary depending on the situation and information.
"Each specific situation will dictate precautions depending on the person. Generally, wearing gloves to reduce skin-to-skin contact, possibly decontamination of the member, equipment and/or police vehicle," explained the staff Sergeant. "Risk assessments come very much into play as dictated by the circumstances."
Other changes forced by the spread of the global pandemic include restricted public access to the local detachment, and the cancellation of several public services.
"Some services have been ceased temporarily," said Nutbrown of the criminal record checks or finger printing for volunteer positions, "but we will continue to respond to calls for service and members will be on patrol."
The new-normal at the local police office will see less public traffic into the building — even for the public reporting traffic issues — as collision reports and other complaints are now to be faxed (780-623-2588) or emailed email@example.com
"The public may be asked to provide information over the phone or electronically that in the past they would have come into the detachment for," explained Nutbrown.
One side-effect of the changes community-wide in the fight to slow the COVID-19 spread is a reduction in the amount of calls members are responding to.
"Our call volume has dropped some over last week but the biggest change is the volume of work typically generated as a result of people coming into the detachment," said Nutbrown, adding that he's not sure if that trend will continue as the effects of the pandemic grow. "With it being only a few days since the bulk of restrictions were put into place, it is difficult to determine how the shutdowns and isolations will ultimately affect local policing."
Despite the office restrictions, Nutbrown says the detachment staff and police members will continue to provide policing services to all our communities through this uncertain time.
"Our number one priority remains the safety and security of the public," he said, "The public is asked to please call with any questions or concerns, so that we can provide information, advice or guidance they seek."
Residents with emergencies can dial 911 for assistance. General inquiries can be directed to the Lac La Biche detachment at 780-623-4380.