The union representing Baltimore Police officers said Monday that the department does not have enough hand santizer and other supplies for officers as coronavirus cases in the city rise.
“We know that first responders and healthcare workers are drastically more susceptible to being exposed to COVID-19 than the general public. Neither the Department, nor the City, has established an adequate amount of these resources to fill this need, so we are reaching out to the public and businesses to assist us as much as possible,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso said in a statement.
The union is asking for donations of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment.
Mancuso told The Baltimore Sun that after pressure from the union for cleaning supplies, the department provided some, but it was not enough. He said department officials have told him they are working to acquire more supplies but are competing with others for the items, which are in high demand.
“That tells me they have no supply in place nor the ability to get any,” Mancuso said. “The FOP felt that we needed to do something to try and get our members cleaning materials to make sure they stay healthy and on the job.”
In a statement, department officials said the city is making “adequate supplies” of disinfectants, masks and other personal protective equipment available to officers.
“We have filled all requests from members with either an item or an alternative item to include hand wipes,” the statement said.
Department officials said in an internal memo on March 11 that additional personal protective equipment, such as masks, were being ordered for officers who must interact with potentially infected individuals.
The same memo also said 911 operators would begin screening calls to determine if they might involve an infected person. For calls requiring EMS service, officers are being instructed to wait for EMS personnel and follow their instructions.
Last week, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her office no longer would prosecute certain low-level offenses in response to the spreading disease, but police officials said officers should use their discretion. Officers are asked to issue arrest warrants for low-level charges, with the approval of a lieutenant or above.
The department also has been encouraging residents seeking to report crimes such as theft, lost property or other calls for service that do not require an immediate police response to file them online or by telephone to limit officers’ exposure to the virus.
Baltimore County police similarly announced the department was expanding calls for online reporting and creating a telephone reporting unit at each of its police precincts, where a local officer will take the call and file a report.
Any city officers who might have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 is instructed to notify their supervisor, and those with symptoms are being asked to stay home.
The department also on Monday said that hotel rooms are available for officers and first responders who might become exposed to the coronavirus or might have symptoms. They are designed to isolate officers who exhibit symptoms of the virus or who were potentially exposed to it.
Mancuso said Monday he has not heard of any officers that have tested positive.
Baltimore City has 31 cases known cases, and 288 have been reported statewide, as of Monday.
Donations to the Baltimore police union can be made between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at a designated drop off area at the FOP Lodge at 3920 Buena Vista Ave. in Baltimore. FOP leaders ask those who want to drop off supplies to call ahead at 410-243-9141.