On March 10, 2020, Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency to “…maximize efforts to slow the spread” of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). On March 13, President Trump proclaimed “…the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency.” As a result, the City of East Grand Rapids and Department of Public Safety are doing our best to comply with all national, state and Kent County Health Department directives to keep our residents, businesses, and visitors as safe as possible. I wanted to share some of the measures we are taking.
Your public safety officers are:
- Responding to all calls for service. Safeguarding the community and your safety are always our top priorities. We are proactive, monitoring for problems, responding to violations and educating the community regarding the COVID-19 situation. If you have a police, fire, or medical emergency, call 911. If you have a non-emergency call or request, call 949-7010 and your call will be answered by the Kent County Sheriff Department.
- Practicing social distancing and abiding by CDC and KCHD protocols for everyone’s protection. Remember, each call for service is a potential risk of exposure to our officers and to you.
- Using personal protective equipment when appropriate and disinfecting vehicles and equipment on a regular basis.
- Making traffic stops and physical arrests only if absolutely necessary (as are all Kent County police agencies). When possible, contacts with individuals will be conducted outdoors or over the phone.
- Maintaining a “high visibility presence” throughout the community, particularly in areas where social distancing problems may occur or have occurred. Specifically, officers are more visible during peak times in Gaslight Village and at our parks and athletic fields.
- Visiting businesses to discuss operations and adherence to the Governor’s executive orders and KCHD guidelines. Keep in mind that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure appropriate social distancing when frequenting lawfully open business establishments. I want to thank the merchants and business community for complying with the orders during these trying times. We realize the personal and business sacrifices that are being made for the enhanced safety of the community.
Your Department of Public Safety:
- Is monitoring the health of all staff by taking their temperatures on a daily basis and has reduced the work hours of civilian employees and temporarily furloughed seasonal staff for their well-being.
- Is working closely with all City departments, the KCHD, the Kent County Prosecutor and other local law enforcement agencies to ensure best practices are implemented.
From a law enforcement perspective, the most common complaint we are receiving has to do with groups of people violating the six-foot rule. According to Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order 2020-42:
- “...it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible.”
- “All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.”
- “…all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household are prohibited.”
- Consistent with MCL 10.33 and MCL 30.405(3), a willful violation of this order is a misdemeanor.
It is important to understand numerous exceptions to the order exist including: “Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary…(t)o engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, or other similar physical activity, as well as any comparable activity for those with limited mobility.”
Executive Order 2020-42 is a stay at home order, but not a complete lockdown. Individuals can be out and about depending on the circumstances, which makes enforcement challenging. While our officers are empowered to arrest or issue misdemeanor citations for violations of this executive order, our first approach is to focus on education first, rather than enforcement.
Guidelines, rules and the laws concerning the pandemic are constantly changing. Our COVID-19 policies are updated as soon as new information becomes available. Conflicting information from the federal and state levels may cause confusion and so we must adapt, remain flexible and stay open to change. I can assure you the Mayor, City Commissioners, City Manager and staff are working hard every day to ensure your safety. We strongly encourage everyone to abide by CDC guidelines, wash hands regularly, avoid close contact with others, cover coughs and sneezes, clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, stay home as much as possible and wear a mask when in public.
Please remember many of our friends and neighbors with compromised immune systems are most at risk when the public does not follow these commonsense health guidelines.
Remember: “We stay at work for you, so please stay at home for us.”
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me.
Mark A. Herald
Director of Public Safety