Local police are taking precautions as they continue to serve their communities.
There have been minimal changes to state police operations in response to the coronavirus, Franklin state police trooper Michelle McGee said.
McGee said the first priority is to protect lives and keep order.
Oil City police have “been ready” with a stash of supplies, many of which were stored by former chief Bob Wenner, current chief Dave Ragon said.
Oil City police have modified how they deal with medical calls and are trying to stay outside when responding to calls, Ragon said.
He said all his officers have disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to clean things as needed.
The department also has some face masks, but they have been unable to get new ones, Ragon said. There are some protective suits that are sometimes used at crime scenes, Ragon said.
In Franklin, police chief Kevin Anundson said “I tell the officers to wash their hands, which works better than hand sanitizer.”
Officers are also encouraged ask people to step outside when they respond to a residence, Anundson said.
After hearing that the Erie police department and other larger departments were handling many complaints over the phone, Anundson said that was tried in Franklin.
“We found it (handling calls over the phone) just doesn’t work as well in a small town,” Anundson said. “We can handle some calls over the phone but you don’t get the same information over the phone as you do in person,” he added.
So the department is returning to more in-person calls, Anundson said.
The chief said the department is expecting a delivery of N95 masks, and he has a bulk order of hand sanitizer on back order.
“The problem is we still do what we always do – deal with people,” Anundson said.
Wenner, who is now the police chief in Sugarcreek Borough, said “we are going to be here to help people through these tough times we all have to go through.”
He added that his officers are “taking standard precautions” and following Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines.
At Polk, hand washing and keeping the station and cruisers clean with disinfectant is the order of the day, Chief Ed Sharp said.
Another precaution is “limiting contact as much as possible,” especially with a nursing home and the police department sharing a building, Sharp said.
“No one expects something like this to happen,” Sharp said of the pandemic.
Sharp said there is still some hand sanitizer at the station, but he has had trouble finding hand sanitizer and masks.
“I tell my guys to take precautions. We are going to do our job, but do it over the phone if we can,” Sharp said.