A concept has been floated on the Flu Forums that police should be assigned to the geographical areas that they live in the event of a severe pandemic, my definition: a 10% CFR (Case Fatality Ratio) or higher.
At first blush, this makes a lot of sense. Less gas consumed, and officers would have a vested interest in the local area where they live. It is even a model that my county's Sheriff's Department utilizes during a Category 2 or above hurricane landfall. Stay home, come out as soon as is possible, be responsible for calls in your area. It works for hurricanes because personnel are fairly well dispersed and roadways are often rendered impassible anyway, and the Sheriff's Deputies have county wide jurisdiction. Reality is though many police live in a jurisdiction different from where they work
During a moderate to severe pandemic two areas where policing would be thin are the two ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, the bottom and the top. Not many police live in the worst or best neighborhoods.
But, as one astute Flubie pointed out, exactly how vested and committed will a police officer, or department, be to areas where they consistently suffer abuse, denigration, and even verbal, physical and legal attacks? A tough question.
Surprisingly, it is the same two areas as lack of residential representation put at risk. While physical attacks may not be common in the upper socioeconomic neighborhoods, the other maltreatment categories surprisingly are. The very first time I was spat upon was by a woman in one of the best neighborhood's of my city.
It brings the phenomena of "There's Blue and then there's every body else", or the variant, "There's Blue and then there's you" to light. Police and the community at large are often at odds, viewing each other with less than friendly gazes.
Unfortunately there appears to be the very real possibility that we, society at large, will be asking our law enforcement officials to serve and protect us in a totally unprotected state. No PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
Expert assumption (yeah, there's that word again) has it that PPE will probably be totally depleted in about two to four weeks, even in the most well prepared organizations and hospitals. Our First Responders, Police, Fire, EMS will be expected to perform their duties unprotected. A callused position could be taken that the threat to life and limb are integral to their jobs and a risk was, de facto, accepted. It's what they get paid for, right?
In a word: NO.
Although the risk of life and limb is a fact of life for our police, it is something that a great deal of training, continuing education, and money are expended to minimize. And, while they accept the fact that every time they pin the badge on may be their last, giving their life is not part of the contract.
You see, there is a distinction. Giving one's life is an act of conscious volition, with full understanding that death will be or likely will be the final outcome. Having one's life taken is an act or circumstance, that while possibly foreseeable, every action was taken to prevent.
There's the rub.
...EVERY ACTION WAS TAKEN TO PREVENT.
So, there are two, diametrically opposed, factors effecting motivation to report in a probable life threatening and crisis situation, a strong sense of duty and an "Us vs Them" mentality. Sitting smack in the middle of those two polar opposites is the will to live. The more connected to a community an officer is the more likely he/she will be to report to duty, even at great danger to themselves.
How will a community ensure that their police tilt toward the "sense of duty" side of the line? At the risk of stating the obvious, ensuring that they have sufficient PPE would be a good start. Since a sufficient supply of PPE is probably not a goal that can be accomplished, at least a honest effort to get in place what can be gotten would go a long way. A community that cares for its cops will have cops that care about the community.
During a moderate to severe pandemic everything will contract down to the community level. Ensuring that as many public service employees are vested in the community only makes sense. The purchase of adequate PPE for the police is cheap considering the alternatives. Communities must not find themselves in the position of having to ask their police to give their lives protecting those who failed to do everything within reason to protect them.
Community planners should also be aware that those they depend on to police their streets, put out their fires and respond to medical emergencies may be a pandemic resource that their communities of residence may compete for. Since police are commonly viewed as an enemy, or at best, an intruder by the communities they police, they may be easily convinced to contribute their talents and skills where they feel more "at home."