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What are the police doing differently?

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

While much of the state is shutting down, police still work as always.

The Middletown Police Department has changed some of its protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Robert Kracyla said keeping the recommended distance from a member of the public is challenging, but the safety and health of their employees and Middletown residents is most important.

Community relations

Since Kracyla started as chief one year ago, community relations has been a big priority. Social distancing has made that harder, but technology helps.

The police will start “Check on the Welfare” next week. Residents sign up for a phone call from a member of the department during normal business hours to make sure they are safe.

Sgt. Scott Saunders said it is primarily for those who are considered “vulnerable” in the community, such as senior citizens and people with a disability who live alone.

“If you are the adult child of the senior who is living in a different town, you would want your parent on that program,” he said.

Saunders said they are working on the details, but residents will be able to specify the frequency of calls.

“We are trying to think outside the box. The world will change after this,” he said. “We have to evolve with everything that is going on.”

Facebook is part of their plan to stay connected with the community. Along with the Kracyla’s weekly “Chat with the Chief” live video, Saunders will do a children’s book reading of stories focused on public safety.

“It’s an interesting time,” Kracyla said. “We are trying to find different ways to engage with the community.”

Public interaction

Kracyla said they made adjustments in response to crime and criminal transports to limit unnecessary exposure. According to an alert on the Middletown Police Department’s website, officers will still patrol within town limits, but they will not handle non-emergency crimes.

All non-emergency situations will be handled over the phone.

During the next few weeks, they are only handling emergent crimes in person, he said.

“If we witness violations of the law that hurts a person or their property, we will take appropriate action,” he said.

The chief said they are only taking people into custody if they are a threat.

“We are trying to use a criminal summons process as opposed to taking custody of an individual unless it’s a crime of violence or if we think they could of detriment to themselves or others,” he said.

When they do have to interact with the public, Kracyla said they are mainly following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for law enforcement, such as maintaining 6 feet of distance, coughing or sneezing into their elbow and not touching their face.

Kracyla said not all police will wear surgical or N95 masks, but officers who came into contact with someone suspected of being contagious will wear one.

“They will be taking extreme caution when dealing with people,” he said.

Updates on police procedures and community relations efforts can be found at police.middletown.delaware.gov on the Middletown Police Department Facebook page.

For all non-emergency situations, call 302-573-2800.