Standing up for colleagues

Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle

Law enforcement personnel across the county hope to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines.

San Mateo County announced last week it will offer vaccines starting Feb. 22 to first responders, food and agriculture workers, teachers and child care providers — anyone in the state’s “1b” tier, which includes law enforcement.

As president of San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association, Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle wrote a letter to San Mateo County Health Chief Louise F. Rogers on Feb. 5 requesting the county prioritize COVID-19 vaccine for law enforcement personnel including city police departments, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, probation departments, coroner’s office, BART police, CHP and several federal agencies. He wanted them to be on a higher status, “1a,” for vaccines.

The letter notes law enforcement personnel are often the first on scene to emergency medical calls where they administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, provide first aid, apply tourniquets, deploy defibrillators, administer naloxone treatments, conduct mental health evaluations and provide other lifesaving functions to the most vulnerable in the community wherever they are.

“Our personnel cannot provide public safety while maintaining social distancing,” Steidle wrote. “Our personnel are required to provide uninterrupted emergency services to our communities and custodial care to those incarcerated. When our personnel are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19, we follow quarantine protocols that deplete resources. Consequently, our staffing levels have been, and will continue to be, significantly reduced, which impacts our ability to respond to all emergencies in a timely manner.”

Despite using appropriate personal protective equipment, the potential for a staff member

testing positive for COVID-19 is disturbing, the Steidle says. San Mateo County law enforcement agencies have had 163 positive cases and more than 500 quarantined. Two municipal agencies in the county were depleted so much they had to be staffed by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, Steidle wrote.

“Several of those infected were otherwise healthy individuals and have experienced long-term debilitating effects and have not yet recovered to the point they

can return to full duty status,” the letter states. “While San Mateo County law enforcement agencies stand at the ready to assist each other, this type of assistance may not be sustainable in the event of widespread outbreak in our agencies.”

At last week’s San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Don Horsley said he agreed with Pacifica’s police chief.

“If there is a 911 call, the first people on the scene … that’s law enforcement. I really want to see us get to law enforcement as one of our top groups for vaccination. I’m really concerned about our law enforcement people who are in daily contact with residents,” he said.

Now the county’s law enforcement organizations are preparing for Feb. 22 and their first chance for vaccination.

“We are currently compiling the list of staff who wish to receive the vaccination,” Steidle wrote in an email to the Tribune. 

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