BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Southwest Police Station reopened Monday after a police officer tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.
Ninty-four of the officers assigned to the station have been cleared to return to work; 40 remain quarantined as they await evaluation, the police department said Monday night.
All employees assigned to the station had been self-quarantining as a precaution.
According to police, the southwestern district office and all patrol cars were cleaned and sanitized before the station reopened.
Maryland State Police offered up troopers to help while the district’s officers are quarantined.
The governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci said Col. Woodrow “Jerry” Jones officer more resources to Commissioner Michael Harrison.
“Our troopers and MD Transportation Authority Police officers are continuing their regular patrol assignments in Baltimore City. Troopers work patrol in areas of need as directed by BPD command staff. Our criminal enforcement work continues in and around the city,” Ricci tweeted.
3. We have and will continue to provide support resources when possible and as requested by BPD.
— Mike Ricci (@riccimike) April 6, 2020
A total of eight police department employees — six officers and two civilian employees — tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. By Monday night, that number had risen to 10.
In nearby Baltimore County, three officers have tested positive for the virus. Three employees with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and one with the Anne Arundel County Police Department also have COVID-19.
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Since the pandemic began, 305 city police officers were quarantined and 86 have returned to work.
The department is working on rapid testing for officers. Units from around the city are being reassigned to make sure there are no gaps in police coverage, officials said.
As the number of cases within the department climbs, former deputy police commissioner Jason Johnson said the department should prepare to lose up to 20 percent of its police force.
“That’s a number I think you have to plan for, and you want to hope it’s less than that but if you’re in a leadership role (in) any police department in the country, you have to — your contingency plan needs to be, ‘What do I do if I have 20 percent fewer cops tomorrow than I did today,” Johnson said.
There’s “no question” the quarantine will present a threat to the city’s safety given the department is already understaffed, he said, adding the city won’t be able to rely on outside help every time they need it.
“Every jurisdiction is focused on its own needs. There won’t be a lot of backup available from outside Baltimore,” he said.
Johnson believes training officers about how the virus spreads as well as new screening practices, additional personal protective equipment and new policing techniques could protect officers and keep them on the streets.
“I think we have some of the prevention in place already: social distancing as a culture, we are staying home as much as we can, hand washing, things of that nature. Hopefully, the spread won’t be like it was in New York but certainly they gotta be ready,” he said.
Johnson said the department could also call on recently retired officers to rejoin the force, even in a reserve capacity, adding it could help bulk up the department’s numbers and the former officers would require less training than new officers.
During Monday night’s virtual city council meeting, council president Brandon Scott thanked police officers and all those on the front lines of the pandemic.
“All of these individuals who are literally risking their health, their safety, their lives in order for us to continue on with our normal lives,” he said.
As of Sunday, there are 394 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the city, according to the state health department.