Law enforcement agencies hit hard by COVID-19, adapt

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico law enforcement agencies hit hard by COVID-19 need help answering calls for service. One sheriff’s office has even closed down, for now.

The small Mora County Sheriff’s Office said it’s not responding to calls and is instead, having New Mexico State police step in. The move is not sitting well with some people.

“I felt like it was a slap in the face,” said Ruth Medina, who’s originally from Mora County. “To me, the people of Mora County rely on the sheriff’s department, the frontline workers they know are there to protect them and to serve.”

Mora County Attorney Michael Aragon said a 911 dispatcher tested positive. All sheriff’s office employees, including six deputies, are expected to be out at least until those test results come back in three to five days from their Wednesday test date.

The county currently has one of the lowest test positivity rates in the state at less than 5%.

The sheriff’s office has been getting negative responses online, mostly concerns about stopping crime.

The department says deputies are still working remotely on pending cases and court proceedings, and the sheriff is on patrol. Dispatch, EMS and fire crews are still working.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Police Department says they’re also seeing a wave of covid cases, but insist it’s not hindering their ability to respond to calls for service.

“We have 131 staff members who are out. They are either covid positive and the remainder are being quarantined for a variety of different reasons,” APD Deputy Chief Michael Smathers explained.

That’s less than 10% of APD’s uniformed and civilian workforce out of the mix. Of that total, 34 are police officers with the virus.

Interim Police Chief Harold Medina said they sometimes have to redirect the investigative unit to assist with calls for service in the field, but they’ll soon have more help from 18 additional officers just out of training.

APD does its COVID-19 testing internally, administering up to 150 tests a day to employees and their families.

This month, the police academy and two substations made the state’s Covid watchlist.
APD has closed its substations and records office to the public as a precaution.

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