EUFAULA, Ala. (WSFA) - Police in Eufaula will still respond to emergency situations, but as of Wednesday morning changes in how the department operates have gone into effect.
Citing safety and several of its personnel testing positive for COVID-19 as reasons, the department said an amended COVID Emergency Operations Plan went into effect at 6 a.m.
The plan will remain in place until further notice.
“As with other emergencies and natural disasters, consideration has to be given on how law enforcement will function during the emergency,” the department explained. “In order to maintain a high level of public safety it is essential that law enforcement consider how operations will impact close contact spread of COVID19 and what steps law enforcement can alter to aid in controlling the virus.”
According to Police Chief Steve Watkins, the changes will effect several divisions including the jail, communications, patrol, records, and animal control.
The jail is halting visitations, adding enhanced medical screenings for inmate bookings, and is discontinuing the practice of public fingerprinting for the time being.
Police will continue to respond in person to all emergency calls, but Chief Watkins says non-essential person-to-person contact will be limited. Officers will be able to gather information for filing a report via phone if there’s not an immediate threat or a need to collect evidence.
Officers will no longer respond to crashes involving only vehicle damage on private property. Instead, if possible, those involved will need to contact their insurance companies.
When a person calls into the EPD Communications Division, some emergency medical calls will include enhanced medical questioning. For non-emergencies, callers will have to provide a contact number and an officer will call them back.
And the chief says the animal control division is now closed to civilians until further notice. Those responding to animal complaints will also limit personal contact and maintain social distancing.
The plan happens at the same time as an announced curfew by Mayor Jack Tibbs. The public safety curfew is in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through July 22.