A study by two Western Illinois University law enforcement professors examined the impact of COVID-19 on the law enforcement industry in the tri-state area, and found that there were significant effects.
Dr. Niyazi Ekici and his colleague Dr. Dean Alexander began the study in June 2020, accumulating over six months of data from 200 police departments in the tri-state area of Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.
In all states, around 90% of police departments reported the implementation of new COVID-19 safety measures such as personal protective equipment, social distancing and changes in the way police interact with the public.
For example, the study found that 80% of departments reduced police activities and operations within their communities, and a large percentage reduced in-person and police academy training.
Less community policing and training, Ekici noted, limits the police’s understanding of their community and their ability to combat crime, thereby diminishing public safety.
Ekici hypothesized that this reduction in community policing and training could be a major factor in the increase in violent crime throughout the pandemic.
“If you are going out of the routine and limiting some of the crime prevention activities, you can expect a significant increase in crime rates,” Ekici said.
The data also revealed troubling numbers about police officer satisfaction during the pandemic. Only 68% of respondents believed their department had an interest in officers’ physical and emotional well-being.
Ekici noted that part of the reason could be the vulnerability of police officers to contracting COVID-19 on the job. COVID-related deaths remain the highest cause of police deaths at the moment.
“It seems that even though they took precautions, according to the data. COVID-19 related deaths are still the highest cause of police deaths right now.”
The Officer Down Memorial Page, an organization that honors fallen law enforcement officers, recorded 216 law enforcement officer deaths due to COVID-19 this year.