With a new threat making waves worldwide, the Gering Police Department is taking extra precautions in order to keep the community safe and combat the spread of COVID-19 in the area.
The Gering Police Department has responded to the pandemic this week by closing its office doors to the public for walk-in purposes and shifting to meeting with residents over non-emergency matters by appointment only. George Holthus, Chief of Police said, this modification was made in order to “keep a minimum number of people in the facilities.”
“As far as non-emergency things, we certainly encourage people to call 436-5088 which is our non-emergency dispatch number,” Holthus said.
As the doors of the office are closed to the public, officers and administrative staff are utilizing the time to increase sanitation practices.
“We are basically disinfecting everything each time an officer comes through,” Officer Kristen Massie, K9 handler, said. “We can’t stress enough that it is very vital for us to stay healthy because we have to maintain this job.”
The building has also recently been equipped with six hand sanitizer pumps throughout the office with administrative workers cleaning every day, twice a day, explains LeKreasha Chitwood, records administrator.
Also in an effort to keep the police on duty healthy, the officers are having to adjust how they are able to interact with the public.
“A lot of the calls that we would normally have face to face contact with the community, we are trying to do over the phone so we are not in immediate risk of catching the virus” Officer Robert Gleim,school resource officer said.
The communication center is trained to ask important questions regarding the possibility of the caller being ill or infected. They then present the information to the officers before dispatching them so they are able to be aware of how prepared they need to be without personal protective equipment.
“A lot of the calls where I normally wouldn’t wear rubber gloves or be concerned about catching a virus, now I always have that in the back of my head when we come into contact with the general public,” Gleim said, explaining how his daily job tasks have changed.
Massie describes the steps the officers and trainees are taking while patrolling, with two officers no longer being in the same car, which would usually be the norm for those in training.
“We are not allowing anyone to double up,” she explains in order to describe the importance of keeping a distance from others during this time.
Holthus details more measures that the force is taking including minimizing trivial traffic stops and limitations with assisting the fire department on calls unless it is an emergency, saying in regards to his officers. “We are trying to keep them from interacting with people unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Holthus also emphasizes the importance of spending time in nature during this time of social distancing.
“One of the things that the city of Gering has done that is different than other communities is that we are trying to keep our public spaces, our parks, and rec facilities open.”
He said he believes it is significant to mental health for people to spend time outdoors. He said, “the city thinks that it is important for people to have those outlets and recreational activities to help them weather the storm.”
However, he encourages individuals to continue to utilize these facilities in as safe of a manner as possible by “maintain social distancing, 6 feet or more between themselves and other people and practicing good hand sanitization.
“The more things we do now to minimize exposure and minimize the spreading of COVID-19,” Holthus said. “Those are prudent things to do, and the more of those things we do voluntarily could possibly mean less things they tell us we have to do later if we are not able to control the spread.”
The Gering Police Department continues the ability to assist with firearm purchase permits by appointment and burn permits via email. During this time, the office is not charging for accident reports which can also be emailed to individuals as opposed to being picked up at the office.