Sheriff: Business as usual


The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a new normal for places of work all across the country. The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is no exception, and Sheriff Russell Martin spoke with The Gazette Friday to discuss how his office is adapting to the pandemic.

“It’s kind of been business as usual” for the sheriff’s office,” Martin said. One of the most notable differences, he said, has been the low volume of calls coming into the office. Martin said he is grateful for the lack of calls and hopes it will continue.

Like any other business, Martin said the sheriff’s office is taking all the precautions possible to reduce the chances of someone contracting the virus.

“We’re trying to stay on top of all the cleaning, both in terms of personal hygiene — making sure hands are clean — and then our work area,” Martin said. “We’re doing what is recommended. We’ve begun taking the temperatures of anyone who enters the jail, including all of our employees.”

Martin said he will be implementing the same temperature policy with deputies soon, but there has been a delay due to a lack of thermometers. He said there has also been a shortage of the N95 face masks, but if they’re able to obtain a supply, the office will be issued masks as well.

In addition to the cleanliness measures, the office has moved all in-person meetings to conference calls, and all briefings are being delivered to deputies in their cars rather than congregating to receive them. Employees that can work from home have been instructed to do so.

“There has been some impact on operations, but the ability to still respond to emergencies is still present,” Martin said. “Our deputies are exercising discretion, as they always do. They might be, during this unique situation, extending a little more discretion. By that, I mean they’re paying closer attention to potential crimes of violence and very serious traffic offenses.

“If they have to make a traffic stop, they’re trying to use the best practice of giving distance and taking all the necessary precautions they can,” he added.

With California and New York having implemented strict, statewide lockdown policies this week, residents in other states are wondering if it’s just a matter of time before that becomes the norm across the country. Martin said a lockdown scenario has been discussed internally in the office only “at a very hypothetical level.”

“The reality is that we know that we’re going to have to have continued cooperation from our community to even consider implementing something like that,” he said. “I think the best we can do, collectively, is take the advice that we’ve been given, the direction from our governor and state health director. If we all cooperate in this, we’ll all be better off.”

Asked if there have been any conversations with the state that such a lockdown could be imminent, Martin said there has been no discussion that would indicate a lockdown is imminent.

As for how the community can help make law enforcement’s jobs easier during this time of disarray, Martin said it all comes back to cooperation.

“I don’t want to oversimplify it, but if people can just be extremely cooperative, and if they’ll be gracious to one another and to our law enforcement officers, it will go a long way toward maintaining civility in our community,” he said.

Martin went on to say, “We’re all in this together … We’re going to see this play out with social contract between the government and the citizens we serve, and it’s just best for everybody if we cooperate and help each other.”

Delaware County Sheriff Sgt. Shawn Wade searches a vehicle. County Sheriff Sgt. Shawn Wade searches a vehicle. Tracy Whited | DCSO

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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