Bristol Police responding to crisis with new measures, command readiness

Bristol Police asking people to file non-emergency reports through the department website


The Bristol Police Department has taken several steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic, beginning with asking for the public’s help. The department is asking residents to curtail any non-emergency visits to the station and to direct as many of those non-emergency activities to either the department’s website or a phone call to the police dispatcher.

Residents can use a new tool on the Bristol Police website ( to file a report about non-emergency situations like phone or text harassment, credit card fraud, identity theft, theft of packages, vandalism to property, lost property, etc. All of those complaints will be forwarded to a patrol officer, who will file a report and send confirmation within 72 hours.

“We’re looking for cooperation to limit the amount of foot traffic into the building,” Capt. Burke said. “This includes any incident where a suspect is not identified or known, or a situation where there is no active threat.”

If residents want to call police for a non-emergency situation (use 911 if it is an emergency), they can still call the station at 401-253-6900 and hit 0 to connect with the dispatcher on duty. Additionally, VIN checks have been suspended until further notice.

When officers do respond to calls, they may ask residents to step outside and maintain the six-foot “social distancing” guidelines established by Rhode Island state government and the Centers of Disease Control.

Internally, the department is taking measures to protect its own staff and the full capabilities of the force. All officers have been issued protective masks. Officers are sanitizing all cruisers both before and after every shift. And Chief Kevin Lynch has authorized a “Level 2” state of command, meaning that the department has been elevated to a level of readiness where it could mobilize operations quickly.

As Capt. Burke explained, “we’ve heightened our awareness and taken preparations so the command truck is ready to go at the turn of a key.” This would occur only if the station itself became contaminated or needed to be evacuated for any reason.

“We have a very robust plan in place in the event we need other resources or we need to relocate for any reason. The safety of the people of Bristol is paramount, and we will not experience any disruption in service,” Capt. Burke said.

He also praised the collective actions of all Bristol town leaders, beginning with Town Administrator Steven Contente and Fire Chief Michael DeMello, for communicating internally and coordinating efforts throughout town. He said it’s been “eye-opening” to see how well town leaders are working together through this crisis.

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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.