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COVID-19 number one killer of law enforcement

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Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 9:28 AM EDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s an overwhelming tragedy anytime an officer is shot and killed in the line of duty, but new numbers show COVID-19 has become a much more dangerous threat, killing more officers than any other on the job threat in the last year and half.

“At least if you’re going to a call with a man with a gun, you know it’s a man with a gun. You know how to take the proper precautions,” said Chief Bill Partridge, Oxford Police, Former President of the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs, “You can’t do that if you don’t know if the individual is infected.”

That invisible threat has taken a toll on officers in Alabama and across the country.

“The ODMP (Officer Down Memorial Page) says over 240 police officers have been killed by COVID compared to 39 killed by gunfire, so that gives us perspective,” said Chief Partridge.

Pelham Police recently lost Officer Juan Gomez, who died after he was exposed on duty.

Chief Bill Partridge says as much as departments do to provide PPE for safety, it’s a different story when it comes to protecting and serving.

“You may have to perform CPR on a person who is down, so you don’t know what you’re dealing with on patrol,” said Chief Partridge, “and those are the concerns we have as administrators.”

Chief Partridge says his department has been hit hard with COVID, including patrol officers, department support staff, and himself, noting his own monoclonal antibody infusion treatment during his fight with COVID.

Despite deaths, police and first responders are among the most hesitant to get vaccines. Based on the data available, departments are reporting figures below the national adult vaccination rate of 74 percent.

Oxford’s police chief urged people, especially officers, to consider getting the vaccine because of the nature of the job.

Police union leaders say COVID also impacts officer work days and leaders hope that officers can get more paid time off when they have to quarantine.

“He shouldn’t be charged that leave time to do what’s required of him to keep not only himself healthy and well, but also the community. It’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had,” said Everette Johnson, President Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police.

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