Local law enforcement agencies are making big changes to help keep their officers and the public safe during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Scottsboro Police Chief Ralph Dawe said his department is making several adjustments during the Coronavirus outbreak. He is encouraging officers wash their hands as they get in and out of vehicles and the buildings. He also suggests they stand 10 feet apart from each other. Dawe said they are also sanitizing all surfaces including doorknobs, countertops, and keypads each day.

He said that officers are now doing "field arrests", where the offender is given a citation in order to keep contact between the outside world and the jail down. Dawe said if someone is arrested and taken into custody, the suspect will be put into a quarantine area and be decontaminated. A nurse will then screen the suspect about any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure they may have had. The nurse will determine if the suspect can be booked and put into the general population of the jail. Dawe said he hopes these measures limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19.

Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said they have released as many people from the Jackson County Jail as they possibly could. He said some bonds were lowered and people in jail that committed misdemeanors were let out on bond. Harnen said they are trying to keep the population of the jail as low as possible. 

Like the Scottsboro Police Department, County Sheriff’s Deputies are also doing field arrests for most infractions. Harnen said if a suspect has to be put in jail, they are screened before they go into general population. He said they are asked questions like where they have been, have they been exposed to the virus, do they have any symptoms of the Coronavirus, etc. Harnen said everyone who goes in the jail is getting his or her temperature taken, no matter if they are a deputy or inmate. He said they are keeping the population low, and they are not letting trustees or inmates on work release out to keep them from somehow contracting the virus and bringing it back into the jail.

Harnen said they have encouraged deputies to practice social distancing, and they have been given masks to wear while on duty. Harnen said they are trying to work as close to normal as they can.

Both departments are taking as many reports over the phone as they can. Contact the Scottsboro Police Department at 256.574.3333 and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 256.574.2610.

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