Sheriff Releases Mitigation Plan
Sheriff Salazar has finally come out with some guidelines on dealing with COVID-19. There are some good ideas in there. Trying to keep the jail population down is wise. There are very few ways to practice social distancing in a jail environment. Using cite and release to help keep people out of the jail is a smart way to keep the jail population down. Filing warrants at large is another positive step even though this is a practice that was being eliminated. It’s not optimal in normal conditions but we aren’t in normal conditions.
The Parts that were Missed
I could write a whole, long post on the good aspects in the emergency plan but it’s more important to know where the problems are. Those will be the weak points.
Officers – It’s easy to say, “BCSO will staff to maintain critical operations in the event that essential staff are out due to illness, care of ill family members or dismissal of schools.” But how will you implement it? The Bexar County Jail is down approximately 200 positions. They have gone past lean and are now to bone. How will the jail staff positions when they don’t have the people to do it? And as we pointed out in a previous article, officers are exhausted. People whose bodies are already in an exhausted state due to being overworked, have a much harder time fighting off illness. That’s just a fact.
When there aren’t enough bodies to fill the critical positions, what are they going to do? Is Salazar going to mandate that sick officers come back in? Is he going to insist that officers who are already working massive overtime, do even more? It’s fine to have a plan to lower the chances of COVID-19 getting into the jail but it’s wishful thinking that it won’t happen to at least some degree. Where is the plan for emergency preparedness regarding insufficient staffing? Has anyone even been designated as the emergency planner?
Civilians – We never hear any concerns from the Salazar administration, for the civilian workers at the jail so we are going to sound that concern. What is being done to keep civilian workers safe? Why doesn’t Salazar make an announcement asking people not to go to the jail for items from Central Records unless there was no other option? Why doesn’t he tell people that, for County reports, all someone has to do is send an email and the report will be emailed back? Why doesn’t he tell the public that crash reports can be paid for and downloaded from the TxDoT website? Why doesn’t he discontinue fingerprinting services for the time being? There are other places people can go to get fingerprinted rather than a facility that is at high risk of spreading the virus. Sheriff Salazar could do a lot to discourage public traffic, to keep his employees safe, while we are in this crisis. Instead, he announces in his emergency plan that Central Records will stay open without doing a single thing to reduce traffic.
Public – Sheriff Salazar should be making announcements regarding things that can be received through the internet or by mail so that people don’t have to go to the jail. But for those who do have to go, say for a criminal history, what is he doing to protect them? Those people have to place their finger on a scanner. That’s a perfect spot to spread disease. Can those optical readers be cleaned with a disinfectant? Or if that’s damaging for them, is there something at the counter that people can use to wipe their finger before placing it on the reader? There is a phone at the front counter that is for the public to use to call to different sections depending on what they need. Are there wipes there? It would be better if they just put up signs not to use the phone and had the officers call those areas from their phones but will they do it or will they ignore the danger to the public?
COVID-19 Coming to San Antonio
The COVID-19 virus will come to San Antonio. How hard it hits us depends on what we do. While people may be washing their hands more, many more people are not practicing social distancing. People are still going out to crowded bars and restaurants. The paradox about taking precautions is that when we do, they work. Afterwards people look at the results and say, see it wasn’t that bad, everyone was overreacting. When the reality is, it wasn’t that bad because people did what they were supposed to do. COVID-19 will hit San Antonio. If we do what we are supposed to, we can mitigate the consequences. That includes staying away from hot spot areas such as the jail, unless absolutely necessary.
KSAT 12 published Sheriff Salazar’s mitigation, or if you prefer, emergency plan. You can see it here.