Boone Police adjusts protocol in response to COVID-19

Tucker Wulff, Reporter

Boone Police Department is handling its response protocol differently at the moment to protect officers and citizens from COVID-19, but reactions from community members are mixed.

The updated protocol involves a variety of changes to maximize social distancing, Dana Crawford, BPD chief of police said. Among the adaptations to response protocol is the prioritization of phone reports whenever possible.

According to a news release issued by BPD, reports to the department will be “assessed to determine if an officer response is necessary.” This change does not, however, mean that BPD will no longer conduct investigations. BPD will conduct investigations no matter if a report is filed in person or over the phone.

The release also stated that BPD will not respond to medical calls unless they are specifically requested to do so. 

“Now certainly if it’s an emergency situation, if it’s a violent crime, if it’s something where someone is at risk, we’re gonna answer those calls,” Crawford said. 

Crawford said these changes are meant to minimize the risk of officers falling ill and reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to the Boone community.

“If we have an officer answer a call and there’s a potential exposure there, then they go to a wreck scene and they’re potentially exposing the next guy,” Crawford said. “We’re trying to limit some of those non-essential functions where we can to protect the public.”

BPD also wants to ensure the safety of its own officers and families, Crawford said. 

If an officer gets sick on duty and spreads the illness to their family, that only adds more problems to the situation, Crawford said. 

If officers fall ill, they aren’t able to work, let alone respond to calls, and BPD doesn’t have many extra officers who can serve, Crawford said. 

“Each person, they’re very essential to our entire operation,” Crawford said. “You know, a lot of agencies, they may have a fleet of people that they can call on, we don’t.”

Boone community members’ responses have ranged from disappointed to grateful since the department announced the changes. 

Andrea Combs Goodman commented on a post in the App State Classifieds Facebook group regarding the changes and wrote “My opinion can be shared right here. I feel like they are stepping down from their duties.”

Others, like Lachlan James, supported the changes. James commented “This is what they normally need to do,” on the same Facebook post in App State Classifieds. 

Meanwhile, commenters on the Town of Boone Police Department Facebook page wrote of their deep gratitude. 

“Thank you for all you do for us. You have a job that I could not do, and I appreciate you so very much. Know that you are prayed for everyday that you are safe and make it back home to your loved ones,” Angelia Willow Wolf Nichols commented with a red heart emoji. 

The department has mostly noticed overwhelming support from the community, Crawford said, as is evident from notes of prayers, “well wishes,” and community members who have brought officers food. 

“Boone Police Department is going to do its job, and I don’t care if we have to do that with one person,” Crawford said. “Our love and our earnest desire is to serve the public … and we have to do that under some trying circumstances. These are trying circumstances.”