OLATHE, Kan. — Police departments across the metro are adapting their response amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They’re taking extra precautions and finding new ways to interact with some of the community’s most vulnerable.
If you have an emergency, you should absolutely still call 911. But police are trying to be smart about how they interact with the public to keep themselves and you safe.
With the help of call-takers and dispatchers, KCPD is trying to limit the face-to-face contact officers have with the public.
“Our communications unit are hyper aware of the types of calls and trying to get a little bit more information than they normally would as far as whether or not the police need to respond at all,” KCPD Capt. David Jackson said.
In many cases, metro departments are able to take non-violent crime reports by phone or online.
And if officers do need to respond, they are asking citizens to come outside, so they can still observe social distancing while investigating.
“We’re trying to take all the precautions,” Jackson said.
Squad cars are also being wiped down often. Community donations are helping to equip road patrol units with face masks. And even the crime lab’s pitched in to whip up hand sanitizer for officers.
“We appreciate everybody coming together. It’s cool to see,” Jackson said.
Kansas City’s most violent crimes are down about 6% since the coronavirus outbreak began. In other metro cities, it’s dropped up to 20%.
But a service that continues to be a big need is mental health.
“You don’t have to be in crisis to get support. You don’t have to have a mental illness to get support,” said Jordyn Chaffin, Olathe Police Department’s mental health co-responder.
Mental health co-responders based within Johnson County police departments are still responding in-person for high-risk cases. But in most situations, they’re offering services and support virtually right now.
And some people find themselves needing help for the first time with new life stresses during this public health emergency.
“Just remember that it’s OK to not be OK with this situation. It’s scary for everyone. Stress you’re feeling is normal and take it one day at a time,” Chaffin said.
And if you do find yourself in crisis or need someone to talk to, you can reach the Johnson County Mental Health Crisis Line 24 hours a day at 913-268-0156. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Experts recommend getting good nutrition and sleep, staying hydrated and getting outdoors or exercising when possible to help your mental health. Also try to maintain contact with loved ones, whether by phone call, text or video chat as a way to check-in.