Bristol police department getting back to ‘normal’ operations

After being split for two months, Bristol police are returning to work under one roof

By Scott Pickering
Posted 5/28/20

Two months ago, the Bristol Police Department split in two. On Monday, they’re getting the gang back together again.

Chief Kevin Lynch announced that, beginning June 1, the department will …

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Bristol police department getting back to ‘normal’ operations

After being split for two months, Bristol police are returning to work under one roof

Posted

Two months ago, the Bristol Police Department split in two. On Monday, they’re getting the gang back together again.

Chief Kevin Lynch announced that, beginning June 1, the department will resume operations under one roof, with one command structure. Things have been quite different since late March, when the chief split the department into a north unit operating out of the mobile command center parked at Bristol Fire Department headquarters along Annawamscutt Road, and a south unit based at police headquarters on Bayview Avenue.

The redundancy was a tactic to keep things running smoothly in the event of a positive COVID-19 case or outbreak among any member of the department. If any officer or support personnel became sick or had to be quarantined, potentially along with their co-workers, only half the department would have been impacted. For instance, if someone in the north unit contracted the virus, the south team would have continued without interruption. In addition, a team of retired officers formed a third team, waiting in the wings in the event they needed reinforcements.

Two months later, none of those emergency situations have occurred, and much has changed in both the world and the department. Chief Lynch said there are many reasons to return to normal operations, albeit a “new normal.”

The department has an array of new online resources. Residents can report non-emergency complaints or file anonymous tips online. They can request public records online. The department now does virtual roll calls and holds staff meetings via the Zoom video conferencing software. Mounted screens within the station now relay important communications as digital kiosks — replacing paper and push pins on the old-fashioned bulletin board. Officers write reports from their cruisers in the field rather than using terminals within the station.

“One of the things we’re learning through this, is to take advantage of all the advances in technology, and we’re going to continue those as we move forward,” Chief Lynch said.

A state executive order now requires masks to be worn in public, particularly in indoor public spaces. Police dispatchers ask people to put on masks before officers arrive at a scene.

There are also new procedures throughout the criminal justice system for how to detain and process those arrested. Most never see the inside of the station. Officers are practicing social distancing when out in the field and are limiting the number of self-initiated calls, to reduce the number of interactions with people. They are trying to hold conversations outside whenever possible, asking people to step out of their homes.

Cruisers and shared equipment are cleaned after every shift, and certain areas of the building will remain off-limits to the majority of personnel for the time being.

“We now have so many layers of protection we just didn’t have six to eight weeks ago,” Chief Lynch said.

Asked how the experiment went, he said, “I’m extremely pleased that the officers did an exemplary job and overcame new obstacles. In essence, we put together a makeshift police department at a moment’s notice, and at the end of the day, it worked.”

He added that if they see a spike in cases or an outbreak in the department, forcing them to revert to the old “new normal,” they can quickly fire up the two-department model without interruption of services.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.