Hoping to limit personal interaction and slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Pennsylvania State Police is changing the way it answers some nonemergency calls.
Those changes were announced Wednesday by Col. Robert Evanchick, state police commissioner, and will remain in effect until further notice.
“To enhance social distancing and keep our personnel and the public safe and healthy,” he said in a news release, “we will begin collecting information via telephone for incidents that do not require an in-person response from a trooper.”
The redefined response guidelines are limited to certain incidents that can be resolved with limited or no on-scene response, said Trooper Brent Miller, state police communications director.
Examples of those incidents, he noted, include lost and found items, littering, identity theft and bad checks.
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“The goal is to limit in-person contact and gather as much information on the telephone,” Miller said.
The actual response, however, will be based on the totality of the circumstances of each situation in consultation with a supervisor on duty.
Miller stressed that police response protocol to emergencies and crimes in progress remains unchanged.
General requests to speak to a trooper also will be handled differently, temporarily.
“Before, if someone called in and stated, 'I want to talk to a trooper about such and such,'” Miller said, “normally a trooper would go and talk to them. It's part of our public service.”
Now, if possible, those requests will be done by phone.
“But if something needs our immediate attention,” he said, “we will be there for the general public.”
Miller said police have asked the public to be cognizant of social distancing if they need to visit their local state police station.
“Signs have been posted at the entrances advising visitors not to enter the facility if they're experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for (COVID-19),” he said.
In that case, the public will be instructed to call the station by phone to speak to a trooper, who may come outside to address the situation one-on-one, if needed.
The stations and police facilities, he said, remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Police, meanwhile, received notification over the weekend that a trooper tested positive for COVID-19. The name of the officer, his troop or station is not being released, Miller said.
The trooper has been self-quarantining at home since March 19. Another trooper who had “close contact” with the affected trooper also is self-quarantining as a precaution.