Berkeley police officers report changes in daily life during pandemic

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Karin Goh/File

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The shelter-in-place ordinance issued by the city of Berkeley in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has emptied the normally busy streets of the city and campus, reducing police calls for service and shifting the daily lives of officers on duty.

While UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Nicolas Hernandez said officers in his department follow work routines on campus similar to those before the pandemic, Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron White said for BPD officers, “nearly everything has changed.”

Work shifts began to change for BPD officers in April, when the department started a work plan that offers an ongoing rotational two-week shelter in place, according to White.

The work plan allows an officer to work four 12.5-hour shifts the first week, work three 12.5-hour shifts the second week and take the next two weeks off to shelter in place. White added that the department is currently in the second month of this work plan.

According to White, a variety of measures have been taken to maintain a physical distance between people, including spacing individuals out during police briefings.

“We also have patrol vehicles especially designated for prisoners,” White said. “Those vehicles have been especially outfitted to restrict the air circulation between the officers and the prisoners.”

UCPD officers continue to patrol campus grounds and buildings as often as they did before the pandemic, according to Hernandez. One thing that has changed, however, is the level of the officers’ precaution, as they now wear masks and wash their hands more regularly.

Hernandez compared the current deserted campus to campus during summer sessions, when there are usually fewer students enrolled in classes.

According to White, BPD officers have not issued any citations to individuals not wearing masks or not practicing social distancing. He said they hope they will not have to implement this measure.

“I know it’s hard when it’s a beautiful day out and you want to go outside and be with your friends — we are all people,” White said. “But, our hope is that the public does the right thing to protect the rest of the city and the rest of humanity.”

Hernandez noted that UCPD is focusing on educating individuals who may not be following recommendations to help prevent the spread of the disease.

According to Hernandez, although campus may feel and look different with its empty halls and streets, UCPD’s workload has ultimately stayed the same.

“I imagine that like everyone else, our officers feel the anxiety of uncertainty,” White said. “No one in 100 years has experienced anything like this before, but every day we are trying our best to keep civilians safe under these circumstances.”

Contact Olivia González-Britt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.