News Sports Opinion Photos Social Classified Obits Contact
Chief Matthew Higgins

Police force deals with coronavirus hurdles

By Michael Butler

There is no "stay-at-home" command for first responders. Law enforcement officers put themselves on the line everyday, but now they are facing a new danger, the coronavirus.

Tallassee Police Chief Matthew Higgins knows there is job that has to be done but is taking safeguarding measures for his staff and the community they protect.

"Early on we instituted a policy kind of like the mayor did with City Hall," Higgins said. "We shut down the department for people wanting to stroll in. We put up signs saying if you need something to call, so people aren't bringing it in to the building."

Higgins said the station is cleaned everyday. He has even put in measures to check temperatures of officers on duty prior to their shifts.

"We made a decision to lessen the amount of people in the office and put them out on the street to keep an eye on things. If you're alone inside the little bubble of your car you have less chance of coming in contact with each other. We're still coming in contact with the public, but we've tried to lessen that."

Reports are being taken by phone when possible. Activity overall has been steady regardless.

"Something may come down, but something else will take its place. You get an uptick sometimes in your domestic calls or neighborhood dispute calls. Used to be everybody would be at work, now they're at home. Those type of calls pick up when others might die off a little bit. We're trying to stay in the neighborhoods more."

With a stay-at-home order in effect, Tallassee police are authorized to issue affidivates as arrestable offenses that could bring $500 fines for violators.

"We've broken up a couple of block parties. We've been riding around. We've been checking the ball fields and the parks. With teenagers, we've put it on the parents. If it's okay to hang out together, we'd still be in school. They might get sick. Our concern is taking it home to grandma or a parent. My father does chemo. It makes him more likely to pick something up. I've tried to avoid him."

This is new ground for officers but contingency plans are in place.

"I've been doing this for 27 years. We plan for disasters. We might not have specific plans for coronavirus, but we do drills and have big books full of what-ifs."