‘This time, it’s not just us’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘This  time,  it’s not  just us’For the second time in less than a year, Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin is in crisis management mode. But unlike his experience spearheading a multi-agency effort to recover from last summer’s historic earthquakes, he’s in just one law enforcement agency among thousands during a national emergency.

“This time, it’s not just us,” he said. “The earthquakes impacted our region, but we had the rest of our county come to our aid. This time, our city, our county, our state and our nation are all dealing with the same thing.

“So as the demand on our agency grows, we can expect the same thing for all the departments in our mutual-aid agreement. If numerous first-responders around the county become infected and are quarantined, we are going to have fewer and fewer resources to pull from.”

McLaughlin said that one of his priorities is maintaining social distancing protocols to mitigate the risk of exposure to his officers, so that RPD is still able to respond to emergencies.

RPD headquarters have temporarily changed the way they respond to non-emergency calls. The majority will be handled by telephone, he said, but officers will be dispatched when necessary.

The RPD has also suspended non-essential services, including live-scans, but will still conduct business as usual in the front lobby of the police department.

Whenever possible, he encouraged members of the community to call instead of coming in. “This will limit our face-to-face interactions, and hopefully reduce the spreading of COVID-19, in order to maintain operational readiness,” he said.

“If officers have to be quarantined, we might be forced to request mutual aid from other agencies in the county.”

In addition to keeping officers at a reasonable distance from the public, the department has also implemented protocols to enhance sanitation. Officers have also limited face-to-face contact with one another.

“The number one priority for our department is the safety of our community,” said McLaughlin. “Working together, we will get through this continual state of flux.”

Pictured: Sgt. Aaron Tucker holds one of the protective masks officers will be using for protection against COVID-19. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-03-20