A Sterling Heights police officer fogs the back of his patrol car with sanitizer at the Sterling Heights Police Department headquarters May 29.

A Sterling Heights police officer fogs the back of his patrol car with sanitizer at the Sterling Heights Police Department headquarters May 29.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Police, fire departments adjust to COVID policies

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 5, 2020

 A police officer gets a temperature check as a health and safety precaution prior to a work shift.

A police officer gets a temperature check as a health and safety precaution prior to a work shift.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — As COVID-19 precautions carry on, a day on the job at the Sterling Heights Police Department starts a bit more surreally for officers.

Just ask Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski.

In the old days, it was common for more than a dozen officers to sit down and be briefed at once. Now the day begins with a body temperature check from a touchless digital thermal scanner in the back of the station. Roll calls are individualized, and officers are tasked with keeping their equipment sanitary.

“We made changes to our operations, including roll calls that are held one on one in our basement garage to avoid large group settings,” he said. “We’ve also taken extensive steps to disinfect our patrol cars, both before and after every shift, with spray disinfectant and electric foggers to eliminate any kind of contaminants within the vehicle.”

He said officers get their keys during roll call, grab a bottle of sanitizer and disinfectant, and get to work.

“All of our officers are supplied with N95 masks, rubber gloves, plastic face shields, and they utilize those pieces of (personal protective equipment) when they have direct contact with somebody,” Dwojakowski added.

Prisoners get face masks to wear, and they also get temperature checks and health screenings before they go into the Police Department’s jail.

And fewer people are in the station, too. The chief said the Police Department accepts online payments for services, the records bureau has transitioned many of its services online and many of the workers are conducting business from home.

“We’ve reduced office density,” Dwojakowski said. “We’ve been having limited people showing up in the building.”

Despite these changes happening so suddenly after the state declared a state of emergency, Dwojakowski said the department was able to adjust within a week to 10 days.

“Everyone was on board,” he said. “Everyone knew how serious this was. At the end of the day, the police officers cannot stay home. It’s not an option. We need these guys on the street, and they had to be healthy. We got very little to no pushback whatsoever.”

Dwojakowski had one request of the public as more businesses and institutions transition to a gradual reopening: Don’t get too close to officers doing their jobs.

“We would appreciate when people are not getting too close to the officer to maintain that 6-foot gap,” he said. “We don’t need people getting up in our officers’ faces, spitting or yelling. We would appreciate that distancing of 6 or more feet.”


Fire chief sees inspections ahead
Meanwhile, over at the Sterling Heights Fire Department, Chief Chris Martin said the next step is to open the Fire Department headquarters back up in cases when members of the public need to enter.

“Ninety-seven percent of our staff has been working, but we haven’t allowed the public in the building for the last several weeks,” he explained. “We’ve been keeping the same protocols in place.”

Martin said it’s rare for the public to need to enter, but sometimes it’s necessary for reports or medical information.

“We’re doing what we can in the first place to do it remotely,” he said.

Martin said there hasn’t been any significant issues with responding to fires while adapting to the new COVID-19 protocols. He said that, overall, the department has been in good shape with being stocked with protective equipment.

“The only problem we have been having is gowns,” he said. “We’ve been in good shape for masks and gloves and things like that.”

Martin said the Fire Department will start doing building inspections again, and the inspectors will use their protective equipment when going inside.

“I think what’s going to happen is, since a lot of construction has shut down, there is going to be a lot of construction inspections that have to be done,” Martin said. “Then the routine inspections will get done as we have time.”

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by calling (586) 446-2800, or the Fire Department by calling (586) 446-2950. For other information, visit www.sterling-heights.net.

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