Friday, March 27, 2020
A Jackson Police Department officer has tested positive for COVID-19, Police Chief James E. Davis confirmed in a press conference today, where he also announced more safety protocols. The officer, whose identity was not revealed, is self-isolating at his residence, the chief said.
“We understand that when citizens call the police, we must answer the call. To provide the best police services for our citizens, we must have healthy officers,” Davis said at the March 27 press conference streamed from his office.
As Jackson and Hinds County resisted changes in arrest policy, a member of the Exonerated 5 explained to Seyma Bayram what they could face without them.
The chief stated that the City has referred officers who have been in contact with the infected officer to an off-site clinic or their own doctors for medical screening for COVID-19 symptoms. Those who are symptomatic will be placed on a two-week administrative leave. In order to get back to work, they must provide written proof from a doctor stating that they have not tested positive for COVID-19.
Davis reiterated that officers are instructed to follow COVID-19 recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. He said that JPD officers and precincts have access to hand sanitizers, disinfectants, masks and gloves, and are trained in how to use them. Officers disinfect their cars after transporting individuals, Davis said.
To further prevent spread, the JPD has made changes to its roll calls, so that officers meet one-on-one with their supervisors. The department is no longer implementing roadblocks, Davis confirmed, nor are they holding community and police meetings until further notice.
In a phone call today, Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. expressed concern about the lack of testing options for law enforcement and other first responders, who are frequently out in the field.
“We’ve got to get more testing. … We’ve got to have enough space to be able to test our first responders, our paramedics, our police officers, our firemen, because all of those people are still working,” Priester said.
“That’s where things go bad quickly, is that we don’t have the ability to keep testing people,” he added.
The JPD previously told the Jackson Free Press that it would not implement changes to its arrest protocols, despite the significant public-health risks that COVID-19 poses to the criminal-justice system.
But Officer Sam Brown confirmed today that the department had changed its policing strategy.
In a phone call, Brown said that the JPD would now release people who they charge with misdemeanors. JPD would still arrest them, but they would no longer book people into jail.
Read breaking coverage of COVID-19 in Mississippi, plus safety tips, cancellations, more in the JFP's archive.
“What they’ll do is they’ll probably, for your sake and the officer’s sake, they’ll handcuff you,” Brown explained. “They’ll do a pat-down search, they’ll read you your rights, give you your charge, give you a field release form which is similar to a ticket, give you a ticket for the charge, give you a field review form (with a court date on it), and then they will release the handcuffs and you go on about your way.”
Starting tomorrow, the JPD will enforce Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba’s executive order banning gatherings of 10 or more people. Brown said violations will result in the arrest, prosecution and release of individuals.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic we are asking you not to gather on parking lots and stay indoors for your safety and the safety of others,” a March 25 post on the JPD Facebook page first announcing the operation stated.