The fast-spreading virus has frightened law enforcement agencies across the US as confirmed cases now exceeded China's and are now the highest in the world.
AP News says 20% of Detroit's police force is now in quarantine; two officers have died from COVID-19, and 39 tested positive.
For the 2,000-person department, it has been nothing more than headaches as officers have been working multiple shifts to fill in for those who are in quarantine. The force is under severe stress, and that could mean with a loss of patrol units, any outbreak of social unrest would be hard to contain. Hence why Michigan's National Guard was activated several weeks ago.
To the Graduating Class of 2020-C, the @detroitpolice Department and the City of Detroit are proud of you! "You will forever be known as the class that started their days handling one of the biggest crisis of American History" said @ChiefJECraigDPD #ProtectandServe #OurCommunity pic.twitter.com/Vo3yrBHZHs— Detroit Police Dept. (@detroitpolice) March 20, 2020
Law enforcement agencies across the country are reporting their officers are dropping like flies. Many are getting sick as the virus consumes the nation.
"I don't think it's too far to say that officers are scared out there," said Sgt. Manny Ramirez, president of Fort Worth Police Officers Association.
As of Saturday, AP says a survey it conducted last week found that 690 officers and civilian employees at 40 law enforcement agencies across the country tested positive for the virus. A majority of the infected officers were part of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
In the days ahead, it appears the virus will infect more officers across the country. Groups representing American police and fire chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, and county leaders urged President Trump last week to invoke a Korean War-era law that would boost private industry production of supplies needed for the health crisis that would better equip officers.
"We're in war footing against an invisible enemy and we are on the verge of running out of protective supplies," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. "We've got hospitals calling police departments, police departments calling each other, and it's time to nationalize in terms of our response."
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the virus is unlike anything any law enforcement force has ever dealt with:
"We're in unprecedented territory here," said Davis, who was the top cop in Boston during the 2013 marathon bombing.
AP says 10% of NYPD officers called in sick on Friday, straining the force and jeopardizing the safety of civilians:
"In New York, which has rapidly become the American epicenter of the pandemic, more than 500 NYPD personnel have come down with COVID-19, including 442 officers, and the department's head of counter-terrorism was hospitalized with symptoms. Two NYPD employees have died. On a single day this week, Friday, 4,111 uniformed officers called in sick, more than 10% of the force and more than three times the daily average.
Leadership at America's largest police department maintains that it's continuing enforcement as usual. But they've also said that if the disease continues to affect manpower the NYPD could switch patrol hours, or pull officers from specialized units and other parts of the city to fill gaps -- steps also taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
It's becoming evident that the virus is already hurting major police forces across the country. If social unrest breaks out in the weeks or months ahead, as per a new warning from the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, then some forces might not have the capability to contain the riots.
That's why President Trump on Friday signed an executive order that would give the Defense Department "the authority to activate the ready reserve components of the armed forces."
With the economy crashed, millions out of work, and a pandemic sweeping across the nation, the evolution of this crisis could be social unrest.