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Facing 'New Era', LAPD Working To Protect Homeless, Officers From COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - As Southern California grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles police are working to address the needs of the city's homeless population while finding ways to prevent their own from bringing the virus home to their loved ones.

In an interview Thursday, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said officers have been deployed to shelters citywide to ensure the safety of those currently experiencing homelessness.

The plan is to have two LAPD officers at each shelter, along with officers supporting homeless outreach and mental health workers in the transportation of homeless people from various encampments across the city, Moore said.

And while officers are well trained on protocols to safeguard themselves when dealing with unsanitary and dangerous conditions - including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) - Moore says the LAPD is adapting to what he called a "new era".

"This is a new era, not only for LAPD and for this region, but for the world with this pandemic," he said. "And it's an invisible type threat that is and has many unknowns."

In addition to increasing PPE for officers and providing sanitation and hygiene services at LAPD stations, Moore says the department is letting officers wear different uniforms to counter the virus.

Skid Row
Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. LAPD were involved in a shooting of a homeless man who attempted to grab an officer's gun. Skid Row has LA's largest concentration of homeless people who regularly camp on the sidewalks in tents and cardboard boxes. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

The department is also opening up the LAPD's Elysian Park academy as a secure location with 24-hour security, showers, laundry services and snacks to give officers who are often working 12- to 15-hour days the chance to relax rather than going home and potentially exposing their loved ones.

"Rather than going home and worrying about transporting this virus there, they can stay at that Academy facility, be safe, recharge, and get back in for the next day," he said.

When asked about reports of some officers who say they haven't received adequate protective gear when they have to help transport homeless people from encampments, Moore acknowledged that while there have been "some occasions", he's asking for the rank-and-file to bring such concerns to his attention.

"I think there's been on some occasions officers that are uninformed or are hearing and listening to rumor control. So we're doing everything we can to ensure that the internal message is clear," said Moore.

"And that is that you have personal protective equipment, which consists of goggles, masks, gloves... if you don't have those, then you're to bring that to your supervisor's attention," he added. "Not to say in an organization of 13,000 people that we may not have an occasion where an officer feels 'where's mine?'... what we're asking is step forward, identify that you've got a gap here and we're going to provide it."

There are currently 12 LAPD officers who have tested positive for COVID-19. All are at home and recovering, Moore said.

"Every organ part of the organization, whether from our communications operators to our senior staff officers had been impacted by this virus," he said. "And so we're countering a very, very significant risk if very challenging risk.

"And I believe that our work is good, but at the same time, we've got more to do."

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