Long Beach PD officer concerned about COVID-19 protection

A 26-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department is worried officers on patrol don’t have the right gear to keep them safe from coronavirus.

Officer Mary Covarubias told me, she’s taking a risk for speaking out, but through tears, she said, “I know it was the right thing to do.”

Think about what a police officer encounters on a regular basis; the mentally ill and homeless, domestic violence and general violent crime. An officer runs towards the conflict not away from it and doesn’t have time to ask, "do you have symptoms of COVID-19?"

Her worries are many, but she’s particularly unhappy that there aren’t N95 masks, readily available for the rank and file.

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“Our boots are on the ground and we’re out in the field. I sure wouldn’t want to send soldiers into battle without ammunition and tell them, we’re working on it.. do the best you can. I think that we should be out there prepared and protected.” 

But LBPD’s Sgt Eric. Matusak opened up a kit, issued to every police officer. He pulled out two N95 masks, goggles for eye protection, hand sanitizer, gowns, even a garbage bag to dispose of the used protective gear. 

Officer Covarubias does have one of those kits, but she says, “... you literally can’t break the seal without a supervisor’s permission.” 

Matusak confirmed an officer needs to notify a supervisor, but that’s so the kit can be replenished and says there’s a 24-hour supply unit to do that. 

Perhaps, but Covarubias says, she’s the voice for her peers who are worried about contracting coronavirus and bringing it home.

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“I worry about some of these officers, just 22 years old, just coming out of the academy. They certainly are not going to stand up to a deputy chief or make any kind of noise.” 

She thinks officers would be better off in washable uniforms, instead of the dark blue wool ones that can’t be bleached and must be dry cleaned. She calls the wool uniform a Petri dish for all that an officer encounters on duty.

Sgt. Matusak’s response?

“That’s why we provide gowns and instructions on how to properly clean the uniforms,” he told me. "It’s important for us to maintain the professional image. And, we do that in part with the uniform.”

Matusak went on to say, there is a point person for officers to bring their concerns.

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Covarubias insists she has brought her concerns to her superiors. She says their response is, "we’re working on it. We’ll get back to you."