HCPD helps pilot public safety program for first responders
By Maria D. James
How do the city’s essential employees protect themselves from the threat of COVID-19? The Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) has established a robust decontamination process to do just that. On April 23, HCPD invited the Hyattsville Life & Times, and other media outlets, to a demonstration of that process, which takes place under a large decontamination tent that has been in place outside the Hyattsville Municipal Building since April 10.
According to a press release issued by HCPD, the decontamination process is part of the department’s collaboration with the nonprofit research and development organization Energetics Technology Center (ETC) to pilot a COVID-19 public safety program for first responders. The city’s command staff worked with ETC to develop a process for decontaminating equipment, clothing and vehicles at the conclusion of each officers’ tours of duty.
HCPD Chief of Police Amal Awad stated in the press release that she welcomed the partnership, writing, “our Department is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Energetics Technology Center. Together, we have developed and implemented decontamination procedures to safeguard our officers, their families and our community.”
ETC is also working to equip police officers with a COVID-19 protection kit designed to prevent transmission of COVID-19 as officers engage with people placed under arrest.
“The goal was to develop ‘Smart Practices’ that would hopefully turn into best practices by determining what works and what doesn’t as we go through this process,” said Cindy Zork, City of Hyattsville communications manager and public information officer. “We re-evaluate the decontamination process weekly to review protocols and determine the best equipment and materials to use going forward.”
During the demonstration, Private First Class Officer Darrell Benjamin suited up and walked through each step of the process. “The exterior of each vehicle at the end of a shift for each officer is saturated with water and soap to kill any kind of bacteria or germs, then we spray the inside of the car to sanitize and let it dry up, there are two tables a dirty table and a clean table and we take all our equipment and guns to wipe down and clean, then all the stuff that is put in buckets and are properly disposed as biohazard,” described Benjamin. A poster detailing the process hangs inside the tent to help officers run through the steps to sanitize.
“We make sure we do this everyday, not only for our family but for the community, in hopes to not spread it if we are contaminated to keep everyone safe,” said Benjamin.