Our law enforcement officers are on the front lines of a very new war. It is a war not against crime but against a disease. COVID-19 is the scourge that is challenging our nation in new ways — it’s taking lives, instilling fear and disrupting the economy in unimaginable ways.
In times of uncertainty, distress or widespread panic, the American law enforcement officer has heroically responded.
When one assumes the role of law enforcement officer, he or she assumes the inherent risk that comes with the job, be that armed criminals or natural disasters. However, in recent memory officers have not had to face the threat of civil unrest compounded by exposure to a highly infectious disease.
This is the current reality that officers face. Society’s rising fears due to economic turbulence, supply chain hysteria and general despair — not to mention some cities’ early prisoner release decisions — make the perfect cocktail for criminal behavior.
Law enforcement presence is needed more than ever, but what is being done to keep officers safe during this national crisis?
Law enforcement officers across the United States have become infected, and agencies throughout the country have been slow to recognize the threat and deal with it effectively.
Some law enforcement agencies have taken precautions, issued personal protective equipment and stated they’ll only respond to calls prioritized for safety to citizens and police. Others have done nothing to protect their officers, failing to even provide them information about exposure to infection.
This is a new threat for the law enforcement community, and we must be united in the way we support our officers so they may continue to protect our citizens.
If safety precautions are not implemented within the law enforcement community, the risks facing the American public multiplies as officers become unavailable to do the one thing they love most — serve and protect.
The Wounded Blue is the national assistance and support organization for injured and disabled law enforcement officers. It is our duty to stand up on their behalf and demand that agencies and communities fulfill their responsibilities by safeguarding officers on the front line of this new war.
Officers will enter the homes of infected individuals, they will come into contact with possibly hundreds of citizens every day and they may contract the COVID-19 simply by doing their job.
Many of the officers that have contracted the virus have been told that they are on their own for health care. Many of these men and women will suffer not only from the disease, but also from the financial burdens associated with falling ill. Why? Because their departments, their agencies and their city governments will fail them and refuse to recognize this disease for what it is — an on-the-job illness or injury.
As head of an organization that works with injured and disabled law enforcement officers across this country, I have witnessed firsthand the abandonment of untold numbers of officers shot, stabbed, beaten and injured in the line of duty by the very departments that were supposed to protect them. This disease is no different.
If the contraction of the virus is not classified as an on-the-job ilness, the officers who get the virus will be forced to pay for their own treatments, and, if they die from COVID-19, their families will be left with no death benefit and will be forced to pay for funerals, health care costs and life events.
Because of this, The Wounded Blue organization is taking a stand for officers who have been impacted by COVID-19. We are demanding that governments on the state, local and federal level declare that it is presumed that any law enforcement officer who has contracted coronavirus did so while on the job, which can classify it as a worker’s compensation injury.
Our country is in crisis. Undoubtedly, first responders will play a crucial role in how our society emerges from it.
Now is the time to stand with those who stand for us.
Join me as I call on the governors of each state, as well as city and local leaders, to step up and enact legislation to protect our law enforcement officers without hesitation.
Randy Sutton is a 34-year law enforcement veteran and a leading national voice on law enforcement issues. He is the founder of Blue Lives Matter, and now The Wounded Blue organization — the leading national assistance & support organization for officers injured or killed in the line of duty.