Detroit chief: 233 cops quarantined; 150 could return to duty this week

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The number of Detroit police officers under quarantine reached 233 Sunday, although 150 off them will be restored to duty this week if they exhibit no COVID-19 virus symptoms, police chief James Craig said.

Craig said a member of his command staff has been diagnosed with COVID-19. "Several others have symptoms," he said. "I've quarantined others who have underlying health issues."

Among the newly quarantined cops are six officers and a sergeant who responded to a domestic violence run on Detroit's west side Saturday night and had contact with a suspect who was confirmed to have contracted the virus, Craig said.

Detroit police chief James Craig addresses the media

"Whenever officers have contact with someone who’s confirmed (to have contracted the virus), it's a mandatory quarantine," Craig said. "They have to be quarantined for 14 days, and if they show no symptoms, they're released."

After Saturday’s arrest, Craig said the suspect had to be taken a quarantined area of Detroit Receiving Hospital. “The jail wouldn’t take him,” he said. 

Although Craig said he's hopeful more than half of the quarantined officers would soon be back in commission if they show no symptoms, he said there's a backup plan in place if there's a further strain on manpower.

"I got a call from (Michigan State Police Col. Joseph Gasper) and he offered to make state police available to augment our staffing issues," Craig said. "I told him we may do it in the coming week, although we just don't know what our needs will be, because this thing is changing so rapidly. I'm hoping to get those 150 officers back."

On Friday, Craig said 150 of his officers were quarantined in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. A day earlier, 80 officers were quarantined.

"Some are showing symptoms; some are not," Craig said of the quarantined officers. "I'm getting mixed reports."

Craig said "a couple" officers assigned to Public Safety Headquarters are confirmed to have the virus. On Friday, he said the 9th Precinct was the most seriously impacted precinct, and that he called in officers from other areas to cover the manpower shortage.

Craig said he has ordered his officers with beards to shave them, temporarily rescinding the relaxed policy he implemented after he took over as police chief in 2013.

"You can't get a good seal with the N95 masks if you have a beard, so I've changed the facial hair policy while we're in this crisis," Craig said.

Craig said the policy reverts back to the standard adopted by most paramilitary operations, which is also in place for the Detroit Police Special Response Team.

"The SRT members can't wear beards for the same reason: They often deploy gas masks, and they can't get a good seal with a beard.

"A few officers have expressed concern over the decision," he said. "But this was done for our members' safety. It's only temporary; it'll grow back."

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