Missouri Supreme Court Issues Directive to Resume Court Activities

The Supreme Court of Missouri has issued an order and operational directives, effective May 16, to help courts statewide establish localized plans – recognizing the varying community health safeguards and court dockets, facilities and staffing levels across the state – for easing COVID-19 restrictions on in person proceedings. Since mid-March, the state’s courts have been operating under precautionary measures to help combat the spread of the disease while ensuring they remain open to conduct business as necessary to carry out their core, constitutional functions.

Under the order, activities in all appellate and circuit courts – including all associate, family, juvenile, municipal and probate divisions – will continue to be restricted in some respect, and courts are encouraged to use all available technologies to conduct activities remotely to limit the number of in-person proceedings conducted in courthouses. The order authorizes judges presiding over civil matters to waive, for good cause shown, deadlines or time limitations set by state or local court rule (but not those set by a statutory or constitutional provision) and directs courts to adopt measures to ensure timely filing by self represented litigants (who lack access to Missouri’s electronic filing system).

The order further enacts operational directives establishing uniform “gateway criteria” for Missouri courts to begin resuming – gradually as local conditions permit – activities previously suspended. Under the operational directives, also effective May 16, to help make paramount the health and welfare of litigants, witnesses, victims, jurors, attorneys, judicial employees and other individuals involved in judicial proceedings in determining whether a courthouse is ready to progress through four defined operating phases, local courts:

  • Should monitor local circumstances and conditions on a regular basis.
  • Should work with local health officials, law enforcement officers, children’s division personnel, juvenile officers, prosecutors and public defenders, and local attorneys in adapting their plans for moving through operating phases to local health conditions.
  • May move to a new operating phase only after being in the prior operating phase at least 14 calendar days, with no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the court facility and improving COVID-19 health conditions in the community during that time.
  • May revert to a prior operating phase immediately when required by local conditions and circumstances.


Regardless of the phase in which they may be operating, local courts should:

  • Allow (or, in phase three, consider allowing) “vulnerable individuals” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone their required presence in a court proceeding.
  • Follow social-distancing protocols and consider requiring the use of masks or other face coverings.
  • Clean and disinfect common areas and consider providing hand sanitizers and wipes.

The Court intends to issue further operational directives for conducting grand and petit jury proceedings as pandemic and health conditions improve.

NIJ Reports Explore Today’s Criminal Justice Issues

Our system of criminal justice faces many challenges, including persistent violent crime in urban areas, cybercrime and the addiction epidemic. And unlike many TV dramas, where crimes are solved and trials neatly concluded in the span of a mere 60 minutes, the process of handing down justice to the guilty and obtaining justice for victims is increasingly complex in today’s world.

“Our nation’s criminal justice system must deal with a constant barrage of threats, some old, some new and every one of them a test of our public safety professionals’ skills and expertise,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. “In today’s environment, when more demands than ever are being placed on police officers and prosecutors, they are under greater pressure to improve and innovate in their critical work.”

Publications released recently by the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice aim to determine the top issues facing law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide, and to encourage evidence-based solutions. NIJ convened two separate workshops of experts in each field in 2018 to reach conclusions on the most pressing matters, as well as on priorities for innovation.

Based on the findings of each working group, known as the Chiefs’ Panel and Prosecutors’ Panel, the reports serve to inform the work of professionals in each field, policymakers, researchers, and data scientists, and increase awareness of the general public. Although the law enforcement community and prosecutors each have specific functions within criminal justice, they are partners in reducing crime. Not surprisingly, the reports show that the two professions share some similar areas of need.

Both working groups placed staff-related issues as their highest priority, which, for law enforcement, is supported by tragic statistics. At least 228 officers took their own lives in 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that tracks law enforcement suicides. Not only is that higher than the number of line-of-duty deaths, it reflects a steady rise in officer suicides over the last four years. As a panelist noted, giving insight into the stress faced by police officers, “All we need to do is be perfect at all times in a constantly changing world.”

“The value of research in assisting police officers and prosecutors in the challenges they face cannot be overstated,” said NIJ Director David Muhlhausen. “If we can identify the most formidable obstacles—the most serious and persistent problems they encounter every day—we can design our research agenda to meet those needs and ensure that scientific findings are a potent tool in developing policy and improving community safety.”

The report “Fostering Innovation in Response to Top Challenges in Law Enforcement” looks closely at the challenges around officer wellness, homing in on the need for early identification of and intervention for mental health issues and the importance of discerning sources of stress. The report also includes the need to determine the skills, abilities and experiences most useful in hiring police officers. Similarly, the report “Prosecutor Priorities, Challenges and Solutions” includes the leading challenge of staff recruitment and retention.

“State and local prosecutors across the country continue to contend with very high caseloads and comparatively lower salaries than practicing attorneys in other settings,” states the report.

Both groups see the pressing need to effectively use today’s burgeoning technology. Social media and body cameras, for example, are increasing sources for evidence. The challenge, especially when faced by staffing and funding limits, is to use this information in a timely and effective manner. The groups share concern for improved community relations, which is valuable in preventing and solving crimes. They also cite the need for effective technology to deal with cybercrime. These are just some of the issues detailed in the reports.

“Addressing these challenges,” states the Chiefs’ Panel’s report, “will take concerted and collective effort across the criminal justice community. … Stakeholders must be willing to consider substantial and systemic improvements to public safety and criminal justice.”

Officer wellness, prosecutor retention, effective technology, positive community relations and other issues raised in the reports all contribute to greater public safety. These measures are critical because they assist officers and prosecutors in more effectively reducing crime and getting the guilty off the streets.

The Chiefs’ and Prosecutors’ Panels, and their resulting reports, were funded by OJP’s National Institute of Justice and produced in partnership with the RAND Corporation, RTI International, Police Executive Research Forum and the University of Denver.

Jails Turn to UVC Robots to Fight Coronavirus

​​Dane County, Wisconsin Sheriff’s Office is testing out UV light emitters to kill bacteria within the jail. (WMTV) 

​​At the Dane County Jail in Madison, Wisconsin, robots that look like fancy space heaters have rolled from room to room 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since the end of March. The devices emit high-intensity ultraviolet light, a technology that can destroy viruses including swine flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
 
Sheriff Dave Mahoney bought the pair of UVC emitters, which cost about $80,000, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hit, and was reimbursed through a federal FEMA grant the county received for COVID-19 expenses. Now, the robots target everything from solitary cells to eating utensils. Mahoney says he’s had 40 cases at the jail so far after testing the roughly 450 prisoners and 600 staff who work there, a level of infection that he believes would be higher if not for the robots.

“There is so much nasty stuff in the jail,” Mahoney said. “Once you clean a room, it’s only as good as the next person who comes in. That’s why we do it around the clock.”

Prisons and jails, where social distancing is nearly impossible, are epicenters for COVID-19 infections, and corrections officials have struggled to find ways to stop the spread. So they are increasingly turning to UVC technology typically used by hospitals to reduce the organisms that contribute to new infections.

Many lock-ups rely on the people incarcerated there to scrub them down, often with diluted and alcohol-free products. That can keep cleaners from getting intoxicated or injured, but can also make disinfection more difficult.

The Marion County Jail in Indianapolis, Indiana, used bleach as a disinfectant before the pandemic, said Col. James Martin. But it wasn’t always possible for prisoners to leave it on surfaces, such as walls, long enough to work. Now, Martin says, in addition to chemical disinfection, officers run the UVC machines, which the county bought at the end of April.

“We were fighting hard water, dirt and grime,” he said, “but now we’re fighting something totally different.”

Martin said he and others at the jail first learned about UVC during an Indiana Sheriff’s Association meeting last fall where they met with representatives from Skytron, a Michigan-based company that manufactures UVC disinfection systems and other equipment for major hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic.

Last year Skytron began to pursue a foothold in the prison and jail market, attending conferences and supplying machines to jails for free demos, said Larry Perez, a company vice president. “I began to think, why aren’t we sharing this with other places in our community?” Perez said. “One of the dirtiest places you’ll step foot in is a jail.”

That strategy has paid off, Perez said. Skytron’s UVC sales to jails more than quadrupled in April, going from 11 jails to a total of 48. Perez said several state prisons have also ordered units, which cost between $40,000 and $80,000.

Morris Miller, the chief executive of Xenex, which makes UVC robots, said he’s also noticed more interest from police departments and jails. Last year, the company made its first such sale when the LAPD purchased a UVC machine, which cost about $100,000, after an officer contracted typhoid fever.

Companies are pitching new coronavirus-fighting products for lockups, including a machine that sprays an atomized disinfectant mist, which has been adopted by prisons in Connecticut and North Carolina, and a humidifier that a promoter said was being used to combat the virus in 83 unnamed prisons and jails across the country. Studies have shown that the influenza virus does not spread as easily in humid environments.

But UVC, which is also referred to as UVGI (for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), has the advantage of a long track record. For decades, municipal water plants have used UVC to sanitize water. Hospitals nationwide are currently using UVC to decontaminate equipment, including N95 respirators. There is also a growing reliance on UVC disinfection outside of hospitals, including in New York City’s subway cars and the floors of Pittsburgh’s airport.

Nevertheless, its use is largely unregulated and there are no uniform standards to measure performance. “Right now it’s just whatever anybody wants to say,” said Meredith Stines, CEO of American Ultraviolet and a member of the International Ultraviolet Association, which is pushing for standardization in the industry. There are a range of UVC products, including hand- held devices, that are much less expensive than the robots, which are manufactured by about a dozen companies nationwide, Stines said, adding that some products aimed at consumers don’t deliver on the level of disinfection they promise.

Researchers are studying the impact of UVC light specifically on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and some studies have shown it’s probably as effective on this virus as on older ones like SARS.

Despite President Donald Trump’s floating ultraviolet light as a possible coronavirus treatment for people, the intensity of UVC rays that are required to kill viruses and other germs are dangerous to humans and could burn skin and eyes.

“This is promising technology for jails, as long as you don’t expose the prisoners or anybody to this light directly,” said Steven DenBaars, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who specializes in ultraviolet LED light. He said he has seen an increase in funding for research into UVC and is expecting guidelines on the use of this technology in public spaces from the National Institutes of Health soon. NIH has already put out guidelines for the use of UVC to disinfect personal protective equipment.

Experts say UVC should be used in conjunction with other cleaning efforts, and is not a silver bullet. “What this does, is it gives an additional layer of security, because we’re people, and people will miss spots when cleaning,” said Shawn Gibbs, Dean of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.

UVC companies said the robots are high priced because they emit more powerful rays and can automatically assess a room’s size, which allows the machine to estimate the correct dosage of light required to be effective. Robots also come with a variety of safety features, including an auto shutdown function if a person goes in the room while it’s on and door motion sensors to detect people trying to enter.

The Kent County Sheriff’s office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, reduced its spending on chemical cleaning agents so it could afford to buy a UVC robot. It is seeking reimbursement through a Bureau of Justice Assistance federal grant, Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said.

The 1,400-bed jail has so far had just two positive cases of COVID-19, even though Michigan has one of the highest positive case counts in the country, according to data from John Hopkins University. LaJoye-Young partially credits the new robots for keeping the virus out, alongside reducing the jail’s population by about 350 people.

“We have to approach this from all angles,” LaJoye-Young said. “You can’t just clean your way out of this.”

Dane County’s Sheriff Mahoney said he believes UVC is an important tool that he’d like to see other prisons and jails embrace. As incoming president of the National Sheriff’s Association, Mahoney said he plans to distribute a white paper to law enforcement nationally about “the benefits of investing in this technology to keep deadly organisms out of jail populations.”

Mahoney says he’s already shared his enthusiasm for UVC with other sheriffs across Wisconsin, who have followed his lead and also bought UVC emitters. He said he has no ties to any UVC businesses.

“I’ve sold more of those machines for them than their salesman,” he said with a laugh.

 
By Alysia Santo | themarshallproject.org

Senate to Consider Renewal of Surveillance Laws

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to extend three surveillance authorities as senators of both parties express concerns that the laws infringe on Americans’ rights.

The surveillance pro​​visions expired in March, the month lawmakers fled Washington because of the coronavirus pandemic. House lawmakers passed a bipartisan compromise bill just before leaving town, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet been able to push the legislation through the Senate.

The House legislation also has the backing of President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The compromise would renew the three surveillance authorities and impose new restrictions to try and appease civil liberties advocates in both parties.

But the House legislation does not make enough changes for a bipartisan coalition of senators who have long sought to curb federal law enforcement’s ability to surveil. Two amendment votes on Wednesday won solid majorities of senators and complicated McConnell’s efforts to send the bill to the president’s desk for signature.

The expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allow the FBI to get a court order for business records in national security investigations, to conduct surveillance on a subject without establishing that they’re acting on behalf of an international terrorism organization, and to more easily continue eavesdropping on a subject who has switched cell phone providers to thwart detection.

Lacking enough support to pass the House measure, McConnell instead pushed through a simple extension of the surveillance laws in March. But Pelosi never took up that legislation in the House, and McConnell is trying again to pass the compromise House bill this week.

“The attorney general and members of Congress have worked together to craft a compromise solution that will implement needed reforms while preserving the core national security tools,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “These intense discussions have produced a strong bill that balances the need for accountability with our solemn obligation to protect our citizens and defend our homeland.”

McConnell urged senators to vote against three amendments to the bill, two of which came up for votes on Wednesday. He said the legislation was already a “delicate balance” and warned changing it could mean the underlying provisions won’t be renewed.

“We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good when key authorities are currently sitting expired and unusable,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

Still, 59 senators voted for the first amendment — one short of the 60 votes needed — and the second amendment was adopted with 77 votes, more than three-fourths of the chamber. Both were overwhelmingly bipartisan votes.

The first amendment, by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, would have prevented federal law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing information or search history without seeking a warrant.

“Should law-abiding Americans have to worry about their government looking over their shoulders from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers to when they go to bed at night?” Wyden asked. “I believe the answer is no. But that’s exactly what the government has the power to do without our amendment.”

An aide to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said after the vote that she would have supported the amendment if she had been present — meaning it would have passed. Murray was in her home state and is expected to be in the Senate for Thursday’s vote.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a think tank, said it was striking that the amendment failed by only one vote. He said the vote total would have been “inconceivable” five years ago.

“It suggests a sea change in attitudes” following revelations in problems with how the FBI has used its secret surveillance powers, Sanchez said. “It goes to the sort of collapse in trust in the intelligence community to deploy these authorities in a restrained way.”

The second amendment, by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would boost third-party oversight to protect individuals in some surveillance cases. It was adopted 77-19.

If the Senate passes the legislation with the amendments intact, the bill would then have to go back to the House for approval.

A third amendment, by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a longtime skeptic of surveillance programs, is expected to be considered Thursday before a final vote. Paul’s amendment would require the government to go to a traditional federal court, instead of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to get a warrant to eavesdrop on an American.

The congressional debate coincides with internal efforts by the FBI and Justice Department to overhaul its surveillance procedures after a harshly critical inspector general report documented a series of problems in the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The report identified significant errors and omissions in applications that were submitted in 2016 and 2017 to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The Justice Department inspector general has since said that it has identified additional problems in applications. The FBI has announced steps designed to ensure that the application process is more accurate and thorough, and that information that cuts against the premise of the requested surveillance is disclosed to the court.

Trump has frequently railed against the surveillance laws and the Russia investigation. But with encouragement from Barr and congressional Republicans, he said he will support the House-passed legislation.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com

Missouri Passes Bill Requiring Hospitals to Offer Rape Kits

All Missouri hospitals would be required to provide rape kits under a bill focused on the rights of sexual assault survivors that lawmakers passed Tuesday.

Few Missouri hospitals currently have staff certified to gather DNA samplings and other evidence of sexual assault through rape kits, which can be used by law enforcement and prosecutors to catch and convict rapists. There are only 27 sexual assault nurse examiners in the state, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve justice, care and comfort,” Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many Missouri hospitals do not have the resources needed to properly respond to these traumatic situations.”

Schupp pushed to add the requirement that all licensed hospitals provide rape kits by 2023 to the broader bill on sexual assault and rape kits, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig. Schupp said the change will mean survivors “will no longer be faced with the difficult decision to forgo a rape kit or to drive great distances to obtain one.”

Spokesman Dave Dillon said the Missouri Hospital Association is “absolutely supportive” of speeding up the process of conducting and testing rape kits. But he said requiring all hospitals to conduct rape kits “doesn’t make it easier to actuate on the ground.”

Dillon said hiring properly trained nurses will be difficult amid a nursing shortage, and cash-strapped hospitals now have to prioritize which specialty training they can afford.

There are workarounds in the bill to help hospitals that might struggle getting nurses with the training needed to perform the exams.

The measure would give hospitals access to virtual and in-person training on how to perform rape kits. If a hospital does not have properly trained staff by then and a victim asks for a rape kit, a doctor or nurse with the statewide training program would be available to virtually coach them through an exam.

The requirement that all hospitals be able to provide exams would only take effect if the statewide training is available. The health department could also issue year-long waivers “sparingly” if certain hospitals don’t have adequate internet access to the statewide training services.

The bill also would enact a “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” that says victims don’t have to pay for rape kits and can get a free shower after an exam, if that’s available.

Rape survivors would have the right to have a support person and a rape crisis center employee or volunteer present during interviews with police, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They could choose whether to speak with a male or female officer.

Other provisions in the bill would require the state to create a central storage center for unreported rape kits and require those kits to be stored for at least five years.

“Thousands of untested kits have been sitting in hospitals and police departments for years,” Koenig said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and my legislation puts a stop to it.”

Republican Rep. Justin Hill questioned holding on to rape kits from victims who don’t want to pursue charges that “we essentially don’t need” because “there’s no crime since there’s no prosecution.”

“Do we just hang on to this DNA of Missouri citizens who were never charged with a crime?” he said on the House floor.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov​​. Mike Parson, who has not said whether he will sign it.

House lawmakers also on Tuesday sent Parson a wide-ranging bill that  would limit what are called punitive damages, which are awarded as a way to financially punish defendants for causing harm.

If signed by Parson, who typically supports limiting lawsuits, the bill would only allow punitive damages if the person suing “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.”

The measure passed the House 98-51.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com

Fallen Law Enforcement Officers to be Honored During Virtual Candlelight Vigil on May 13

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is centered in the 400 block of E Street, NW, Washington, DC and is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. Dedicated on October 15, 1991, the Memorial honors federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation and its people.

 

The names of fallen U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty will be formally dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during a virtual Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

Traditionally held on the National Mall with more than 30,000 first responders, surviving families and law enforcement supporters in attendance, special remarks and the names of each of the men and women who died in the line of duty during 2019 will be read aloud during the virtual Candlelight Vigil, which will be live streamed. The names of fallen law enforcement officers who died earlier in history, but whose sacrifice had not been previously documented, will also be read during this time.

“The current crisis that our nation and the world is facing has resulted in the cancellation of public gatherings in DC during National Police Week 2020,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto. “We will not let this crisis deter us from honoring the fallen. We plan to march forward in solidarity with a virtual Candlelight Vigil and the reading of the names that can be watched from anywhere in the world. Then, as the future becomes more certain and the end of the crisis is near, we will begin to make plans for an in-person reading of names to honor our fallen officers.”

Located in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is a living monument to ensure the men and women who died in the line of duty will never be forgotten. The names engraved on the Memorial’s walls represent fallen officers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia,  U.S. territories, federal law enforcement, and military police agencies.

HISTORY

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Currently, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, DC to participate in a number of planned events which honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events which attracts thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation’s Capital each year.

The National Peace Officers Memorial Service, which is sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, is one in a series of events which includes the Candlelight Vigil, which is sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and seminars sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.)

National Police Week draws in between 25,000 to 40,000 attendees. The attendees come from departments throughout the United States as well as from agencies throughout the world. This provides a unique opportunity to meet others who work in law enforcement. In that spirit, the Fraternal Order of Police DC Lodge #1 sponsors receptions each afternoon and evening during Police Week. These events are open to all law enforcement personnel and are an experience unlike any other.

Watch recorded coverage of the 2019 Memorial Service at the U.S. capitol by clicking on this link.

US Attorneys Announce St. Louis Task Force

Federal, state and local law enforcement are teaming up to create a new drug and organized crime task force in St. Louis, U.S. attorneys for the region announced Tuesday.

Officials say the goal of the Gateway Strike Force is to combine resources to investigate drug trafficking, murders and other crimes committed by gangs and cartels in the St. Louis area, both in Missouri and in nearby Illinois.

The strike force is under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, which is an independent component of the U.S. Department of Justice. Similar strike forces are in place in 18 other cities, including Kansas City, which announced its program in December.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Delworth said the strike force will initially get $600,000 for the program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. He said the strike force also will have greater access to tracking devices, wiretaps and undercover agents.

Gateway Strike Force investigations are geared toward federal prosecutions but officials say it could also lead to criminal prosecutions in state courts.

Groups participating in the strike force include the DEA, FBI, St. Louis County and city police, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard.

 
​Associated Press | News Tribune​

Stress Awareness and Management in COVID-19 World

In our day to day life, no matter what our profession is, or if you’re a student, fast-food worker, parent, care-giver, etc. – it doesn’t matter. Each of us has an average day-to-day stress load we’re used to dealing with. Some people deal with that daily stress better than others, and some folks deal with greatly increased levels of stress with ease. What we need to address is how the added stress of a pandemic can negatively impact your usual stress management skills and alter how you behave. There is nothing wrong with this adjustment in behavior, but you need to at least be aware of it and do what you can to minimize it for your own health and wellness.

In the law enforcement world, we deal with daily stressors that many if not most folks can’t imagine dealing with at all… ever in their lives. The necessity of on-going situational awareness, while it might stress “normal” people, helps law enforcement professionals reduce the stress they perceive or feel. That reality for law enforcement doesn’t apply to all professions though and even those of us with high stress management skills might feel a bit overwhelmed. Why? Because of the add on stress of the unknown.

This morning it was observed in one conversation that there’s a distinct difference between the stress of potentially being shot / shot at, and the stress of not knowing whether or not you’ll be infected by or exposed to COVID-19. Why would that be? For law enforcement, simple situational awareness and the practice of good officer survival skills can reduce your chances of being shot or shot at. It’s a known risk. It’s relatively minimal (depending on where you work). The chance of surviving it even if it happens is high. It’s an accepted and recognized part of the job. It exists in whatever minimal form from day one of the job until you retire and possibly even after that dependent on your outlook toward lifestyle in retirement.

COVID-19 on the other hand… You can’t see it. You don’t know where it is. You can exercise good risk management practices 100% and still not know whether or not you’ve been exposed. If you happen to get infected, symptoms might not show up for as much as ten to fourteen days – or they might not show up at all. At present, there seems no end in sight for how long this threat might be actively part of our day, or if it will ever be mitigated by vaccine or cure.

Let’s take a look at the Stress Continuum Model. This image is available from about a hundred different online sources and resides in the public domain of every social media outlet this author can find. All things being equal, most officers operate in the green, even while at work. With the addition of the daily stress from the COVID-19 concerns and changes in operations, we might find ourselves in the Yellow space instead. That’s not terrible and if we’re aware of it, we can mitigate or resolve it during our off-duty time or with proper self-care (to the best of our ability) on duty.

Our concern should be raised if we feel that we’re already operating in the Yellow space day to day and the addition of the COVID-19 situational impact drops us into the Orange space. This can have a longer term impact as well as impairing our function during our day-to-day life and duty. The most common and obvious way to address such stress matters is, “Talk to someone; seek professional help.” The additional challenge of COVID-19 restrictions is that they may well prevent such face to face counseling opportunities.

Just this morning (as this is published) this author was talking to a police psychologist headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who is conducting counseling and therapeutic sessions virtually by using the ZOOM meeting app.

What we must do is stay aware and take appropriate action to avoid dropping into the RED space. For all of us who normally exist and function in the Green space, dropping into the Yellow during this prolonged time of additional challenge isn’t out of the ordinary. We need to be aware of it and make sure we practice good stress management / mitigation behaviors while off-duty. If we feel ourselves getting overwhelmed and potentially dropping into the Orange space we must immediately seek assistance and support BEFORE it negatively impacts our behavior and our performance on duty.

Here are a few things you can do to assist in maintaining a positive outlook and/or reducing the impact of all the negative “news”:

  • Minimize the negative saturation in your day. Look at infection numbers no more than twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • Make sure that when you look at the COVID-19 infection data you pay attention to the number of negative tests and recoveries as much as, if not more than, the numbers of infected or deaths.
  • See between the sensationalistic headlines and commentary to the actual facts. News media outlets habitually use language and sentence structure that makes things sound worse than they are. It’s how they keep people coming back or staying glued to the TV screen. It’s how they increase their ratings and therefore advertising revenues. Don’t buy into the hype, but pay attention to the data reported that is supported factually.
  • Assess your own health and risk. The risk of serious challenge from a COVID-19 infection is much higher for those over 60 years of age or who have other pre-existing health conditions. Be realistic about your own risk, both positive and negative.
  • Set the example in your community by practicing the recommended prevention protocols related to COVID-19: wash your hands frequently; avoid touching your face, particularly any area with mucus / moist membranes. Maintain a six foot minimum space when talking to people (haven’t we always done this as “reactionary gap?”).
  • Don’t feed the hype or panic. As you serve your community, be the voice of reason.

We are all in this together and we can all come out of it together if we support one another and maintain ourselves properly. That doesn’t just mean avoiding infection but also taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically.

Stay safe.

By Lt. Frank Borelli, the editorial director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20-plus years of writing and editing experience in addition to over 35 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team. 

Governor Orders Capitol Dome to Shine Blue in Honor of Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

In honor of Missouri’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, Governor Mike Parson has ordered the Missouri State Capitol dome and the Law Enforcement Memorial to be lit blue through Sunday night, May 3.

This year, organizers of the annual Missouri Law Enforcement Candlelight Vigil and Memorial Service are not able to hold the traditional ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial Board organized a small ceremony at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the north side of the Capitol on Thursday evening, April 30. Photog​​raphs of the ceremony and the Capitol lighted in blue last night are available for use at this Flickr album link.  

“Each year, the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial ceremonies bring comfort and strength to this state’s law enforcement community as they gather to remember our brave fallen,” Governor Parson said. “While we will miss the ceremonies this May, I have ordered the Capitol and the law enforcement memorial to shine blue to honor all of our law enforcement heroes who have paid the ultimate price. They will never be forgotten.”    

“For the last 25 years, we have gathered at the memorial to find strength, solace and support from our Missouri law enforcement community,” Missouri Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said. “This year, attendance at our commemoration was forced to be smaller than in the past, but our appreciation of the sacrifices of our fallen comrades, and the strength of their survivors is not diminished. We will always remember those who lay down their lives for their fellow citizens.”

This year, two names were added to the memorial’s Wall of Honor for those who died in the line of duty:

Wayne M. Niedenberg – On June 6, 2019, Lakeshire Police Department Chief Wayne M. Niedenberg was en route to his home when he came across a rollover crash. He radioed for assistance and provided aid to the crash victims. He then suffered a fatal heart attack after arriving at his home.

Michael V. Langsdorf – On June 23, 2019, North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael V. Langsdorf responded to investigate a call about a man attempting to pass a bad check at a Wellston business. During a struggle, the man pulled a handgun from his waistband and fatally shot Officer Langsdorf.

Appeals Court Turns Down CCW Argument

The Court of Appeals Eastern District ruled April 21 that a man whose felonies would be just misdemeanors in some other states still can’t get a concealed carry license.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department denied Tonie M. Townsend a permit because he had pleaded guilty in 1999 in Missouri to two felony counts of criminal non-support. Though he had completed his probation — and was pardoned in 2016 by Gov. Jay Nixon — the fact that Townsend had pleaded guilty to the felonies remained on his record, disqualifying him from a concealed carry permit.

On appeal, Townsend argued that Missouri’s concealed carry law makes an exception if the​​ person’s crime is “classified as a misdemeanor under the laws of any state.” At least seven other states treat non-support as a misdemeanor even if it carries a sentence greater than one year, and Townsend argued that his prior crimes should receive similar treatment.

The appeals court, however, said Townsend’s interpretation was “illogical.” The concealed carry permit law, Judge Gary M. Gaertner Jr. wrote, “includes no intent to require the Sheriff to search the laws of all 50 states to determine the effect of a Missouri felony guilty plea on a CCW permit application.”

The case is Townsend v. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, ED107660.

By Scott Lauck  | molawyersmedia.com

Photo by KY3