AUSTIN, Texas - As Assistant Austin Police Chief Justin Newsom points out, Austin homeless camps have been growing in numbers for years.
"It's not uncommon for you to see feces and piles of trash and needles," he said.
Newsom says he doesn't blame the folks in the camp as they don't have anywhere else to go, but there are risks involved for first responders as they go into homeless camps.
"One of the things that we've asked the department to do is provide a letter from the Health Department on what immunizations officers might need having to deal in these transient camps where you have human feces and rodents running all over the place and dirty needles," said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a homelessness crisis on Skid Row. An L.A. police officer was infected with bacteria that causes typhoid fever in late May and several others experienced symptoms.
Newsom says Austin officers do get certain vaccinations in the academy.
"Hepatitis and things like that, that some people may or may not have been immunized for before they took this job,” Newsom said. “So we already do some but it's a fair question and a good question of 'are we doing enough and do we need to do more?'”
Another concern for the APD boots on the ground is their boots...being on the ground.
"When I get home I take my shoes off at the door so that you don't take in anything that you might have picked up that day," Newsom said.
Last weekend, the LAPD unveiled a new robot at its Central Station, near Skid Row. "Light Strike" is designed to eliminate germs in an entire room and the "HealthySole" sanitizes shoes using ultraviolet rays.
"Making sure that officers don't have to face diseases, Hepatitis A, MRSA and things like that," said Jerretta Sandoz with the L.A. Police Protective League.
This week Casaday said the department is considering buying the boot sanitizers for police substations.
"A pad and they stand on it for approximately 10 to 12 seconds and after you step off, the boots have been sanitized," Casaday said. "Make sure the officers aren't taking home diseases or bacteria-laden boots to their families."