If you've been wondering what policing might look like at a social distance, you're not alone. On Wednesday, March 18, Edmonton Police Service and Alberta RCMP announced that they are making a number of key changes in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Both services are keen on protecting their employees and the public in the face of this public health emergency.
The Alberta RCMP is enforcing a number of changes to "protect the health of our employees and the public," they said in an email sent to Narcity.
To minimize non-essential contact between personnel and the public, they are suspending all non-critical front counter services.
The RCMP is asking the public to consult the provincial directory before heading to a detachment office. If help can be provided over the phone, then an officer or an employee will do so.
The decision to physically meet an officer has to be confirmed over the phone.
"The decision to limit public contact in non-urgent situations was made to ensure the health of the public and our employees so that we are able to sustain essential services across Alberta," they said.
Fingerprinting for Criminal Record Checks will also be affected as part of these new measures. Fingerprint checks will only be conducted in "exceptional" circumstances. Any other non-urgent checks will resume at a later date.
The Edmonton Police Service is also undertaking a number of measures to fight against the pandemic. They are looking to focus on two key aspects going forward: safeguarding their members against the virus and mitigating any illness they've observed in their members.
As a result, they're looking to minimize their contact with the public in some of their facilities.
In a set of videos released to Narcity, Edmonton Police Service Superintendent Dean Hilton said, "our mission is to maintain all policing services, as per usual."
So if you thought they might be loosening up on certain offences, think again.
However, that doesn't mean that procedures aren't going to change up due to the pandemic. For starters, 911 calls to the EPS will be sounding quite different from what you might be used to.
All 911 operators and complaint-line officers will be asking three questions to callers in order to ensure that they can prepare themselves to "attend those locations," said Hilton.
The questions include whether the callers have been in close proximity to any infected individuals, whether they've returned from recent travel outside of Canada in the last 30 days, and whether they've experienced any flu-like symptoms in the last three days.
The police members will also be practicing social distancing in addressing the public's concerns, as has been the case for most Canadians in the past week.