Law enforcement share risks and challenges of job amid pandemic

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BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Some law enforcement shared the challenges and risks they say they face while doing the job in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. They talked about what they go through each day and what’s being done to stay safe.

For the men and women in blue serving and protecting, the job can sometimes already be demanding. Add coronavirus and the risks and challenges become greater.

“God forbid I get into a vehicle accident or God forbid I get into a physical altercation or unfortunately a gun battle with someone. Those are the typical ways in which you think that you’re going to possibly be injured on the job. No one thinks of a pandemic coming through,” said Captain Randall Norman, Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

Captain Norman, fresh off of COVID medical leave himself, said the past year and a half has been difficult for law enforcement because the job is already close contact. So, some arrests have been altered.

“Something as minor as driving on a suspended license, misdemeanor possession of a marijuana charge. Something of that nature can be finger printed while that person is in court. And so we don’t introduce that individual to our sanitized population of individuals we have,” he said.

Each deputy is equipped with PPE to make sure they remain safe in the field. That makes the daily workflow different.

“We have gloves. We have masks. We have full body suits. We have shields that the deputies are able to wear,” Capt. Norman said. “We’ve instituted policies in which the deputies are to sanitize their vehicles every day, whether you have someone in the vehicle or not.”

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Gary Owens, logging more than three decades on the job, said things such as sanitizer and gloves have become his new normal to lower his risks.

“We’ve always social distanced at some point for safety, officer safety. We talk to people at a distance anyway. That really hasn’t changed as much,” Deputy Owens told us. “What’s changed about it more than anything else is you have to wash your hands. You gotta keep yourself clean. You gotta make sure that you’re using the proper PPE for the environment that you’re in.”

NewsChannel 6 confirmed there have been at least five law enforcement deaths related to COVID in the past year. It’s news that deputies said makes the job more emotional.

Deputy Owens said, “In the back of your mind, is this something that I’m going to contract? And if I do get this, what’s the severity of it?”

“Every time I see those individuals, the first thing that comes to mind is thank you because they still paid the ultimate price, the ultimate sacrifice,” Capt. Norman shared.

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