Law enforcement agencies across Columbia County are taking steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Chief checked in with Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley to see what measures are now in place to best protect deputies and the public at the Clatskaine and St. Helens Sheriff's Office locations and the county jail.
The Chief: What steps have been taken at the Columbia County Jail to ensure that the inmates will not be spreading the coronavirus?
Pixley: We have stopped all programs and are limiting access to the facility to only corrections staff. Arresting officers may enter our booking area. We are sanitizing the facility more often, instructing the inmates on proper hand washing techniques as wel as how to prevent the spread of the virus and our medical staff is monitoring the inmate population.
The Chief: Are inmates being tested?
The Chief: Are deputies taking any new precautions, including limiting in-person non-emergency service calls?
Pixley: We are not limiting calls. We are telling our Patrol Deputies to be more aware of the people they contact, ask questions as to their health and handle some non priority calls via phone if able.
The Chief: Are the deputies using and/or wearing new or additional gear to help protect them from the virus?
Pixley: We are providing portable hand washing stations to our patrol staff as well as masks, disposable gowns and hand santitizer.
The Chief: Have any of the deputies been excused from duty with symptoms of the coronavirus?
Pixley: No one has exhibited any signs or symptoms but we currently have some employees quarantined due to possible exposure.
The Chief: Has the threat of the virus triggered public access limitations at the Sheriff's Office and the jail and if so, what are the limitations.
Pixley: We are limiting public access to the Sheriff’s Office and have gone to a service by appointment model to limit the amount of foot traffic at CCSO.
Non-Emergency Contact number
The non-emergency phone number for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office is 503-366-4611. If you have an emergency, dial 911.
The Chief also checked in with the St. Helens Police Department. In a release, a City spokesperson said the St. Helens Police Department continues to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve the community during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but new measures are in place due to the coronavirus.
"Like all citizens, we must take the necessary precautions to keep our officers and their families safe so that our officers can continue to be available in an emergency situation," according to the release.
Because the St. Helens Police Department is a small agency with a limited number of sworn officers, officials said police officers have been instructed to limit their in-person response to all non-emergency calls for service to ensure that police can provide protection for emergency situations.
City officials are encouraging officers and citizens to handle non-emergency calls over the telephone to limit the potential exposure to the coronavirus and keep everyone safe. Officers will continue to respond to all emergency calls in-person. Certain calls for service will also require that officers continue to respond in-person.
In an effort to limit the spread and exposure of COVID-19 in St. Helens, the police station lobby is currently closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. This closure will be evaluated on a regular basis. The lobby will be reopened once it is deemed safe to do so again.
If there is a life safety emergency, or crime in progress, people should continue to call 9-1-1. Non-emergency reports can be made through police dispatch at 503-397-1521.
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