NewsRegionHarford County


Policing during the pandemic

Supplies and calls for service impacted
Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 18:34:20-04

BEL AIR, Md. — There's no shortage of deputies in Harford County, but Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler says protective gloves are in short supply.

"We're certainly concerned,” said Gahler. “We have a supply of personal protective equipment for our correctional deputies and our law enforcement deputies, but as this thing escalates, as we are hearing from our elected leaders---the governor. I just watched his latest news conference. We haven't seen the height of this yet."

Firefighters and paramedics are reporting their level of protective equipment to the state on a daily basis, and like police, they now screen callers for service for signs they could be carriers of the virus.

"When you call 911 in Harford County, you'll be asked some additional questions based on COVID-19. This is for both fire and EMS,” said Rich Gardiner of the Harford County Fire and EMS Association. “So please be patient with the call taker. Answer all their questions honestly and that will give us the proper information to handle your emergency safely."

Deputies are now standing by to take reports over the telephone on minor crimes to limit their contact.

To that end, police also say they will disperse crowds of 50 or more people on St. Patrick's Day or any other day, but the idea is to educate them, not to arrest them, and when asked if the department's partnership with ICE could keep people in the county illegally from seeking help, Gahler offered this assurance.

"Unless you're being arrested for a criminal offense then you have no need to fear calling the police or calling for medical services," said Gahler, "It's a shame that narrative is turned against us. It's the narrative that scares people. It's not the actual facts of how the program works."