Police officers face high risks from COVID-19, though ICPD reports no cases

More police have died from COVID-19 than any other cause this year, and are exempt from some city mask policies.


Jeff Sigmund

Officer A. Farrell ICPD pratices safety by maintaining 6 feet distance, wearing a mask and gloves, while talking to bus passengers at Walmart 919 Hwy. 1, W. . seen on Saturday, Sep.5,2020.

Samantha Murray, News Reporter

Iowa City police officers are not expected to wear their masks all the time while out on duty even though the Iowa City Police Department is under COVID-19 health and safety guidelines along with the rest of Johnson County.

Captain Denise Brotherton of the Iowa City Police Department said that she believes that the public and her officers cannot be expected to always wear a mask, but it is aimed more at getting people to wear them the majority of the time.

The police department has been trying to set a good example for the community by wearing masks and educating the public when possible, she said.

“Our primary job is to keep people safe,” Brotherton said. “Part of that is also us protecting the public when it comes to the virus.”

Brotherton said it is up to the officer’s discretion to decide when an appropriate time would be to take off their mask. Also, officers are not to be disciplined for taking off their mask if they felt unsafe.

Despite the risks involved with contracting the virus, the captain said her officers were not going to shy away from the potential hazard.

“We come from a field that we run to the problem and try to solve the problem, so you’re not going to have officers who, when faced with, meet with an uncertain situation,” Brotherton said.  “They’re going to figure out how to work through that, and we’re problem solvers.”

She said that since the beginning of the pandemic and the local rise in cases, the police department has been following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including reaching out to the community to receive PPE for officers and staff.

According to the *Washington Post*, more police officers have died of COVID-19 than from any other cause this year. However, despite cases surging in Iowa City, Brotherton said no one from the police department has contracted the virus as of yet.

Coronavirus cases among Iowa police have not been uncommon, however. In July, one Coralville police officer and three North Liberty police officers tested positive, as well as nearly half of Hiawathas’s police officers, as reported by KCRG.

Mayor Bruce Teague implemented a mandatory mask mandate on July 20, with an exemption for people in public safety, which includes law enforcement and firefighters.

“Depending on the environment, lighting levels, or task, it could be necessary to allow for removal of the covering to ensure all sensory capabilities are maintained for the safety of the public, officers, and other emergency personnel on scene,” a spokesperson from the Iowa City communications team wrote in an email to *The Daily Iowan*.

Hayley Bruce, assistant director of media relations, said the University of Iowa’s police department does not release any numbers regarding COVID-19 or health issues among their employees for privacy reasons.

Bruce said UIPD officers are required to abide by the same guidelines that apply to the rest of the students, faculty, and staff while on campus.

“Officers with the UI Police Department are university employees and are required to follow the same health and safety guidelines as everyone else on campus,” she said. “This includes wearing a mask or face covering and social distancing.”