Collateral considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Police leaders have many questions relating to operations during this national emergency


As we try to adjust to providing public safety services during the COVID-19 pandemic, police leaders have lots of collateral questions not directly concerned with personal health or enforcement.

In that regard, here are a few issues and suggestions to consider:

1. What if mandated k-9 training deadlines can’t be met?

Individual handlers should continue to document whatever training they can undertake on their own. (Photo/DHS)
Individual handlers should continue to document whatever training they can undertake on their own. (Photo/DHS)

Many POST agencies have established guidelines that recommend both 16 hours of monthly training and annual recertification for K-9 teams, but some outside trainers and even agencies have now restricted or even prohibited in-person training sessions.

In order to continue to maintain the recommended 16 hours of monthly maintenance K-9 training, it is strongly suggested that individual handlers continue to document whatever training they can undertake on their own (such as tracking and obedience) and, if possible, acquire the assistance of an “agitator” on a social distancing-appropriate 6 ft. lead.

As for putting a K-9 team into service whose annual recertification has lapsed during COVID-19 restrictions and your trainer cannot participate in person, it is recommended that the individual handler videotape themselves performing the required tasks and remotely sharing it with a POST-certified evaluator. Since we are obviously dealing with untested circumstances, documented evidence that a K-9 team has contemporaneously met the POST guidelines will likely be sufficient to allow the team to continue to be deployed.

While regulatory bodies are obviously trying to adjust along with the rest of the world and could be willing to temporarily waive certain training deadlines, maintaining training in critical areas remains essential. In some instances, training that does not require in-person attendance may be available online through POST providers or other entities like Lexipol. Even if training deadlines are temporarily waived or relaxed, documentation of adjusted training in all areas continues to be important.

2.  What about bringing back retired officers to supplement resources?

Like the medical profession and other essential services, tapping into the talent of eligible retired officers may prove beneficial and effective in allowing current officers to focus on the immediate needs of public safety. However, in doing so, please consider the following.

Depending on the role any retired officer might be asked to fill, it is recommended that they are provided with at least some local refresher training and policy review relevant to the position they are asked to fill. These retirees will ultimately be held to current policy and training and “we didn’t do it that way when I was working” won’t fly as an excuse down the road.

While even many full-time employees are now working remotely, the administrative and investigative tasks many of these retirees (some in the more vulnerable 65+ group) are being asked to handle are also appropriately being done from home. However, agencies and individuals must remain cognizant of the fact that anyone working remotely on their own computer or other personal communications devices (PCDs) will run the risk of opening their own PCDs, as well as otherwise confidential agency databases to discovery. [see San Jose v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.5th 608 (2017)]. Appropriate safeguards must be put in place to ensure the confidentiality of criminal records, personnel files and other protected data. The more safeguards and protection your IT folks can install, the better off we’ll all be in the long run.

Not limited to these COVID-19 times, please continue to exercise appropriate restraint in the content you include in text messages, emails, etc. Just because we’ll be communicating more frequently via remote channels doesn’t mean that those messages will remain private.

There are myriad COVID-19 questions and issues arising every day. Follow PoliceOne's COVID-19 resource page and coronavirus.lexipol.com for other COVID-19 news and recommendations. 

If you have any questions about this or any other legal issues, call us at 714/953-5300 (no charge). If you have any questions about Lexipol, call 949/309-3894 or visit the Lexipol website at www.lexipol.com.

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