By Greg Ellison
Need to protect officers and residents recognized
(March 26, 2020) Looking to employ common sense safety precautions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ocean Pines Police Department has temporarily expanded its telephone reporting system to limit non-vital responses.
Police Chief Dave Massey said the virus-related directive asks residents to call in reports, but an officer response would be still be provided if requested by a victim.
“Certainly, any in-progress crime, or any serious crime we’ll immediately respond to,” he said. “They’ll be no change whatsoever there.”
The telephone reporting would involve minor property crimes or incidents lacking a suspect.
“Normally, in those cases you do a cursory investigation, but if there’s no suspect and no witnesses, it’s very difficult to clear that kind of crime,” he said.
Minimizing officers’ in-person visits for minor offenses typically handled by the OP Police is part of a larger safety protocol.
“It just means we will expose our first-line responders to less danger of possible infection from coronavirus,” he said. “Keeping our first responders healthy should be our number one priority and that’s what we’re doing.”
Massey said the shift in fielding crime reports is standard operating procedure in many jurisdictions.
“We’re more of a full-service police department normally, but these are abnormal times,” he said. “During abnormal times you have to make adjustments.”
The revised approach will provide supervisors greater flexibility on what does or doesn’t warrant an officer response.
In some instances residents are required to file a police report due to insurance company requirements for claims processing.
“In those kind of cases, it really behooves us to channel our response to a more telephonic level,” he said.
Massey said none of the operation alterations are occurring in a vacuum.
“We certainly monitor our state and local government, “ he said.
The changes are in accord with guidelines issued by the Maryland State Police.
“We were already thinking about doing that anyway, so we’re basically mirroring some of the other response from police agencies and kind of putting an Ocean Pines bend on it,” he said.
In contrast to larger metropolitan police forces, the Ocean Pines Police operate a community department, Massey said.
“We handle all types of calls from the highest level to the lowest level,” he said. “We always respond, so this is a change for us, and it’s only a temporary change.”
After community response to the pandemic began in earnest last week, Massey said road traffic congestion lightened appreciably.
“The first impact is there’s much less traffic on the road,” he said. “I think most people are staying home and only going out when they need to.”
Other initial indicators were more troubling, specifically an apparent push by some to stock up supplies beyond the point of reasonable need.
“It kind of worries me that people are buying more than they really need because that makes it less for everybody else,” he said.
Massey said grocery store chains are open, with food manufacturers likely to ramp up production in response to market demand.
“This is a trying time for people and there’s a lot of worry,” he said. “It’s an unknown territory but we’re going to sail through it.”
Massey said many citizens were unaware the novel coronavirus would become a pandemic and as that reality becomes clearer, reactionary behaviors will decline.
“What we’ll see is people will adjust to it,” he said. “The initial fright, after a while when we come to grips with it, rationality will prevail.”
The one thing that won’t change, Massey said, is the department’s mission.
“We’re going to be there for them … that’s an absolute,” he said. “Whenever you need the police, we will be there regardless of all the circumstances.”