The Pikeville City Police Department addressed the public’s concerns regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and discussed some policy changes that it is making to protect its police officers and the public.
Tony Conn, the department’s public information officer, spoke at a press conference on Tuesday about the way the police department is reacting to COVID-19. However, he said he wanted to first address the fears and concerns that many citizens, visitors and businesses might have regarding COVID-19 and the recent citywide and statewide closure notices, including schools, government offices, sit-in restaurants and bars.
There have been no confirmed cases in Pike County yet, but Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones declared a state of emergency for the county on Tuesday, following the lead of more than 40 other counties across the state.
Conn said handling a virus like COVID-19 is unlike anything the police or the city has ever faced before, but he wanted to reassure the public that the police will continue to serve the public.
“We want to make sure the public knows that we are still going to do our jobs protecting and serving like we’ve always done,” Conn said. “We know people are scared right now. We’re in uncharted territory, too. We as a city have never handled anything like this. … The first line of our city policy for us is, we are a community partner, and we’re all on this ship together with this.”
As of Wednesday, the Pikeville Police Department lobby will remain closed until further notice, but the station will remain open. Anyone who visits the station can use the police phone outside to call into the station, and an officer will come and meet the visitor outside.
“That keeps the distance that is recommended, and that’s what we’re trying to keep to protect us, our families and the public,” Conn said.
The police’s regular patrols through the neighborhoods will continue, but, Conn said, police officers will try to work more with those who need assistance over the phone, rather than in-person. The 911 dispatcher will inform the police department about the situation, and, if possible, the police officer will try to resolve the matter over the phone instead of a face-to-face meeting.
“If dispatch calls you and says, ‘Hey, can you step outside and talk to us,’ that’s the preferred way right now to do this. That way, we can keep the six-foot deal going on,” Conn said, referring to the recommended six-foot distance that people should keep from one another to prevent the spread of the virus. “We can still handle your call, handle your issue, handle your problems.”
Regarding calls being made to the police, Conn said 911 should be used for calling in more serious situations like domestic incidents and house fires, while situations that are not as immediate and serious should be saved for the station’s regular phone number, instead of 911.
“911 is for emergency services,” Conn said. “I know 911 gets tied up sometimes by calls that are not emergency. A cat stuck in a tree is not a 911 call. ‘My nephew stole my wallet four months ago’ is not a 911 call. ‘The Dollar Store’s out of toilet paper’ is not a 911 call. We’re trying to let people know, don’t tie that line up because someone could really be needing that number.”
When police officers must enter houses, Conn said, they will be wearing protective gear, like face masks and gloves, as a precaution. All police cars are being disinfected on a regular basis, two or more times each day, Conn said, and police officers are maintaining recommended hand-washing and sanitizing techniques. If a person needs to be transported in the vehicle to the jail, the car will be disinfected after the individual has left the vehicle.
“Our city has provided us with everything we would want or need to do this with,” Conn said.
Conn said it is important for the officers to protect themselves, as well as the public, from COVID-19 because one officer out sick could affect the rest of the department.
“If an officer does get exposed to this, then that’s automatic taking an officer off the road for 14 days no matter what,” Conn said.
“Social distancing,” or someone putting distance between themselves and other people, especially in social gatherings, has been recommended by local, state and national officials as a measure to stop the spread of the virus. As more people have done that across Pike County and the state in recent weeks, Conn and Police Chief Chris Edmonds said they have both noticed a decrease in emergency calls made to the department in recent weeks. Edmonds said he planned to speak with store managers regarding more frequent cases of theft that could result from the closures and lowered work hours for many in the city and county.
“When I first started this job, my training officer told me, a person that is afraid and scared is a very dangerous person — especially when it comes to, ‘I’m out of food,’ ‘I’m out of money’ (and) ‘I’ve been laid off from my business, my job,” Conn said. “They’ll do whatever it takes to feed their families and they get panicked. When you panic, then that’s when you’re not gonna do any good to anyone at all.”
If a person needs to access a collision or crime report, Conn recommended that they visit, www.buycrash.com, and, www.buycrimes.com, respectively, to help lower in-person traffic at the police station.
Copies of the case reports, Conn said, will be written by the police on-site and will be given by the police to the person who is involved in the case while at the scene. That given copy will have a record number on it, which the person can use to access the collision or crime report on the websites about five days after the incident occurs.
Conn said the most important thing he wanted the public to know was that the department will continue to serve the public.
“We’re not going to be disappearing,” Conn said. “We’re a community partner. We’re a very proactive police department. We’re going to be exactly as we’ve always been. We want the public to know that we’re here, and we’re going to be here.”
The Pikeville Police Department is located at 111 Scotty Hamilton Way. For all non-emergencies, call the station at, (606) 437-6236. You may remain anonymous when you report a crime or suspicious activity by calling, (606) 437-6236.
For all up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website at, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
Visit the Kentucky Department of Public Health’s website for all up-to-date state information at, https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dph/pages/covid19.aspx.
The Pike County Health Department is located at 119 River Drive, and it can be reached at, (606) 437-5500, or online at, https://www.pikecountyhealth.com/v4i/.
For more information, Kentuckians can call the state’s new coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline, 1-(800)722-5725, for questions or additional help.