If you get stopped by a Glynn County police officer and she asks to see your driver’s license, she means just that.
Do not expect the officer to touch that license in this pandemic-induced period of social distancing. A cellphone photo of the driver’s license will suffice to capture the necessary information.
“Our officers have been very inventive,” said acting Glynn County Police Chief Jay Wiggins. “One example is using their cellphones to take pictures of driver’s licenses and IDs so they do not have to make that exchange.”
This self-initiated practice is just one of many new methods county patrol officers are employing to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the course of performing their duties, said Wiggins, who also is director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.
Department supervisors quickly developed new standard operating procedures for everything from taking a suspect into custody to interacting peacefully with the public, he said.
“We have prepared an in-house policy that provides our officers with the latest guidelines from the CDC and Public Health Department,” Wiggins said.
In dealing with the public, officers now ask folks to respect the recommended 6-foot buffer. “The public here in our community have been very understanding and cooperating with these requests, and I believe they will continue to do so,” Wiggins said. “I think people understand we have to do everything we can to ensure our public safety officers stay well so that we are here to protect and serve the community. We are having to relearn how to handle interactions with the public to some degree. Our officers continue to practice community policing, just with some adjustments for everyone’s safety.”
If a person needs police help but personal contact is not necessary, such requests are most likely to be handled over the phone or via the internet, Wiggins said. “Of course, any routine calls or requests that can be handled by phone or online we will do it that way,” he said.
Several organizations have donated items such as masks and gloves to the department, which are a big help in the current environment, Wiggins said.
Gallagher Marine Systems, a member of the Unified Command that is charged with overseeing the safe removal of the shipwrecked Golden Ray from the St. Simons Sound, donated some 1,000 N95 respirator masks to county first responders.
“We have been fortunate to have collected some personal protection equipment from both local donations and other sources,” Wiggins said. “So if an officer encounters a high-risk situation or has to make an arrest, the officers do have some protection.”
Brunswick police are observing similar social distancing practices while interacting with the public, city police chief Kevin Jones told city commissioner at a specially-called meeting Tuesday. Additionally, officers are having temperature checks at the beginning of each shift. It is part of a health check list each officer takes prior to going on duty.
However, Jones said, law enforcement is still a top priority.
“People who need to go to jail will go to jail,” Jones said.