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Boston police decline to release coronavirus protective measures; Cambridge officers switch to 12-hour shifts

After an officer tested positive for the virus, it’s not clear what protective equipment Boston police are providing.

Boston Police officer Scott MacIsaac on Dorchester Avenue in the Field's Corner neighborhood of Boston.
Boston Police officer Scott MacIsaac on Dorchester Avenue in the Field's Corner neighborhood of Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

The Boston Police Department on Monday declined to say what protective equipment is available for its officers after one of them tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Sergeant Detective John Boyle said he did not want to compromise officers’ safety by saying whether the department is issuing them masks, gloves, and other protective equipment. He did say officers are encouraged to follow guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as practice social distancing when they can — which he acknowledged is not always possible in police work.

“Public safety is our priority,” Boyle said Monday. “And that’s our job, to decrease fear in the residents of Boston right now and uphold the law.”

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The department is operating as usual, Boyle said, and residents should still call 911 if they have an emergency.

On Saturday, the Boston Police Department learned that one of their officers tested positive for the fast-spreading virus, though it was unclear whether he was exposed to the virus on the job. The officer is home on medical leave.

Across the Charles River, Cambridge police officers will be working 12-hour shifts for the foreseeable future to ensure the department has adequate staffing levels during the coronavirus pandemic, a department spokesman said Monday.

Before Monday, a regular shift was 8 hours long. The department is making the switch preemptively to make sure officers are prepared if staffing levels fall, police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said.

The department had enough masks and protective equipment for the near future, Warnick said Monday, though like other first responders and medical workers nationwide they have concerns about how long the outbreak will last.

Officers who are usually assigned to schools and youth centers — which are now closed — are instead providing security for shelters, delivering meals, and filling in where needed, Warnick said.

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City residents who want to help can follow the social distancing guidelines issued by the state.

“The more that we can all encourage people to collectively avoid being in groups and social distancing, the better off we’re all going to be,” Warnick said.


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043.