Coronavirus prompts new safety protocols for officers handling suspects
A domestic violence suspect coughed toward responding Farmington police officers and claimed to have COVID-19, officials said.
- Nine Navajo police employees have tested positive for coronavirus and four San Juan County first responders are quarantined after being exposed
- As a man was being arrested, he allegedly violently coughed toward two of officers and claimed he had coronavirus
- Navajo Police Department has installed mobile decontamination enclosures for officers
FARMINGTON — Farmington police responding to a domestic violence call received an unpleasant surprise as the suspect "violently" coughed on two officers and claimed to have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Officers on patrol during the coronavirus pandemic face additional dangers as suspects taken into custody can cause health and safety issues.
Nine Navajo Police Department employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and four San Juan County first responders are quarantined after having direct contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
The court documents for domestic violence suspect Lance Holiday, 23, of Farmington, detail an alleged domestic violence call which ended with the suspect coughing on two officers on the night of April 13.
He is accused of two third-degree felony counts of aggravated battery upon a peace officer (great bodily harm), a third-degree felony count of child abuse and a misdemeanor count of battery.
Holiday did not have legal representation on April 15 and was incarcerated on a $5,000 cash at 10 percent bond.
Officers were dispatched to the 700 block of Hope Avenue.
The woman told police Holiday struck her multiple times in the head and hit the head of a three-year-old twice, leaving him with a bump on his head.
Holiday was arrested when he returned to the scene later that night.
As he was being escorted to the patrol vehicle, Holiday allegedly violently coughed toward two of the officers and claimed he had the coronavirus.
Holiday's saliva was observed striking two officers on their chests, according to court documents.
"We don't know if this particular man was tested for COVID-19, only that he claims to have been," Farmington Police Department's Spokesperson Nicole Brown said.
The officers who arrested Holiday have not been tested but are following protocols for reporting and monitoring possible exposures.
Those procedures include decontaminating using proper sprays and cleaners along with changing their clothing.
PPE assigned to each officer is now being used on all calls and they practice social distancing whenever possible, according to Brown.
San Juan County Sheriff's Office protocols
For the San Juan Country Sheriff's Office, the agency has plans established for multiple phases of possible COVID-19 exposure, according to Spokesperson Jayme Harcrow.
Phase two plans require the deputies to sanitize their workspace, equipment, vehicles and everything they may have touched or had contact with while on a call.
Some of the sanitization efforts include using disinfectant spray on the floors of the breakroom when staff enter the room.
Two deputies, along with two San Juan County Fire Department volunteer firefighters, are quarantined following a medical call on April 10 when the patient did not disclose coronavirus symptoms, and later tested positive for COVID-19.
The agency is waiting for the test results for the deputies, Harcrow said. The four first-responders are quarantined for 14 days or until the tests results are negative.
Navajo Police Department protocols
The Navajo Police Department follows similar sanitization and decontamination protocols, according to Spokesperson Christina Tsosie.
"Officers who may have potential exposure to COVID-19, are instructed to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their symptoms," Tsosie said. "We are working to get testing prioritized through health facilities as well as procuring testing through a private vendor."
Mobile decontamination enclosures have been installed.
The enclosures include a water wash, soap wash and a place to change out contaminated clothing, Tsosie said.
The department hopes to secure a more permanent decontamination solution and purchased purified patrol disinfectants for patrol vehicles.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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