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Boston police holding roll calls outside stations to protect against coronavirus

Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross pledges steps to keep officers safe

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, shown in a file photo, has outlined several precautionary measures.
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, shown in a file photo, has outlined several precautionary measures.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The Boston Police Department is holding roll calls outside when possible and telling officers to complete reports where they can maintain social distancing, among a host of other measures being implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus within the ranks, the police commissioner said.

Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross laid out the safety measures in a letter to department employees obtained by the Globe on Thursday.

“These are difficult, trying, and uncertain times,” Gross wrote. "Your health, safety and well-being are a top priority for me and the Mayor."

He listed a number of precautions the department is taking, including holding roll calls outside for officers when possible; directing officers to prepare their reports not in their stations but in places optimal for observing social distancing; staggering shifts of civilian and sworn employees; and making every effort to use wagons during arrests to limit contact between suspects and officers.

Additional safeguards, Gross wrote, include permitting employees who can work from home partially or fully to do so; restricting access to operations to essential personnel; ensuring more than six feet between each work station; encouraging the public to use phone, internet and email to contact the department for routine inquiries; posting signs in district stations in multiple languages explaining social distancing protocols; and placing physical barriers or tape on the floor by front desks to maintain a distance of at least six feet between the officer manning the desk and any member of the public.

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Gross said the department has advocated since January for the state to provide police with street addresses of any residents who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, so officers could have information to “guide their response” during calls to those locations. On Mar. 19, Gross wrote, the state issued an order ensuring officers will have that “critical information” during calls.

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In addition, the commissioner wrote, the city’s 911 dispatchers are screening callers for possible coronavirus symptoms for them or anyone in their households, and officers have been told to maintain six feet of distance between themselves and any member of the public they encounter, “to the extent practicable.”

Gross said the department has acquired and distributed necessary personal protective equipment, and officials will acquire more such equipment as it becomes available.

Eight Boston police officers have currently tested positive for coronavirus, according to Sgt. Detective John Boyle.

“The Department has devised and implemented a contingency plan to ensure continued operations if any employee in Operations tests positive (confirmed or presumptive) or displays all three of the symptoms of COVID-19 identified by the CDC and the Boston Public Health Commission, namely fever, coughing, and respiratory distress,” Gross wrote in his letter to the staff.

He suggested the protocols could change.

“We will continue to make modifications as they become appropriate and will continue to update you of such changes,” Gross wrote. “Please look to the Department for information. If you have questions, please ask them to your supervisor and they will send them up the chain of command. We want to ensure no one is acting on misinformation. Thank you again for your continued service and commitment to protecting the people of Boston.”




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.