Local law enforcement officials will still respond in person to emergency calls, but several agencies said Thursday that concerns related to the new coronavirus mean that people not reporting life-threatening or in-progress incidents will be asked to file reports online or by phone.
The new protocol does not apply, however, to local fire departments or police departments in Bakersfield and Tehachapi.
All first responders are also asking the public to alert emergency service personnel when calling if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“If we start losing employees to this virus, it’s going to really limit our ability to (respond to calls),” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said during a Thursday media briefing.
The Bakersfield and Delano police departments said they will be closing the front lobbies of their headquarters to members of the public. Additionally, the Bakersfield Police Department said the lobby at its westside substation at 1301 Buena Vista Road will be closed until further notice.
All local agencies that sent out notices on Thursday said they are either postponing or suspending their community events and engagements until further notice.
“Our officers and staff are going to do everything we can to help prevent spread within our community,” BPD community relations specialist Kelsey Brackett said.
The Kern County Sheriff's Office stated procedures are in place to provide mutual aid on a local and state level if a law enforcement agency suffers staffing issues due to virus.
“If things were really to get bad in Kern County only, we could ask for mutual aid and the state would send us additional officers,” Youngblood said. “We might have to send officers to (other counties) if things get bad for them.”
Additionally, BPD, KCSO and the Kern County Fire Department will be suspending all civilian ride-alongs. BPD and KCFD have also suspended all station tours until further notice.
The sheriff’s office will also suspend normal visitation and classes at all detention facilities until further notice. Youngblood said KCSO is working to implement video visitations for inmates and their loved ones.
For non-emergencies, please contact the KCSO’s communications center at 861-3110. Online reports can also be made at https://www.kernsheriff.org/Reporting.
The Tehachapi Police Department encourages members of the public to report incidents that are non-life threatening or not in-progress to https://www.liveuptehachapi.com/313/Online-Reporting-System.