In early March, thanks to the efforts of our Champaign County Health District team as well as our local Emergency Management Agency committee, early warning signs and directions were provided to the many first responder agencies, businesses, schools and other local entities we have throughout Champaign County. At first these meetings were gatherings which quickly turned into daily teleconference calls involving the various organizations tasked with dealing with the Coronavirus-19 pandemic here locally.
Throughout these many meetings, local weaknesses, as well as strengths to our response systems, were identified and efforts have been ongoing to rectify challenges and strengthen the systems that we have in place to hopefully address pandemic type issues for our community now and into the future. The issues we’ve faced are no different than what we’ve witnessed happening throughout the USA. Here locally, we’ve been addressing these issues with great desire and effort, hopeful that we are doing our very best to serve our community wisely.
These early warning signals helped the Urbana Police Division to begin, early on, changing various protocols for handling normal day-to-day police and service calls for our citizens with a strong effort to help our officers to have best practice procedures in place to address any COVID-19 issues that came our way. Those issues began happening almost immediately after our new response protocols had been put in place and the little amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) we had on hand had been distributed to our personnel.
While we’re not “out of the woods” yet with this pandemic, and remain uncertain as to how things will “play out” as we continue our year with this pandemic, there may be light finally shining through soon, as our Governor, Mike DeWine, has announced the gradual lifting of the shelter-in-place directives once we enter May.
In closing, I think it is important to let our community know of the dire need the Urbana Police Division (and many other local first responders) found ourselves facing in the shortage of PPE needed for my officers. This added to the already present stress that came with handling front line responses with ill citizens, sometimes uncooperative suspects, and combative arrestees, while at the same time trying our best to keep our officers and their own families feeling safe from this serious virus.
Once it became known to our community that we, among other local agencies, were facing a dangerous shortage of PPE, most specifically face masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers, many individuals, business organizations and churches came to our rescue, unsolicited. We’ve received and continue to receive PPE, well-wishes through cards, letters or emails, donated dinners, baked goods and pizzas for your Urbana police officers. There are simply so many folks that have answered the call and lifted us up in spirit that I fear identifying each and every one of you may result in me missing a few.
But let it be known far and wide, throughout this community, that the men and woman who make up YOUR Urbana Police Division appreciate the kindness and compassion shown to us repeatedly over the past month, as it has greatly lifted our pride and determination in being able to be servers to the folks needing our services, as together, we’ve faced the COVID-19.
I remain hopeful in spirit that this pandemic will soon pass, and we’ll then begin the efforts to recover from the great impact the past several weeks have placed upon our nation’s economy, especially here locally. Let us all take from this pandemic the need as a community to stand strong, remain patient, remain kind and always try our very best to be helpful to those folks needing it the most.
With Urbana Pride …
Matt D. Lingrell is chief of the Urbana Police Division.