HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — COVID-19 strikes Hazleton Police again.
The department is now short-staffed as multiple officers test positive for coronavirus. This adds to the already heavy burden officers face dealing with the city’s high call volume and it comes before one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year. The department is now looking to hire more officers to help lighten the load.
Hazleton Police will soon add six more officers to their department of 40. Acting Chief of Police Brian Schoonmaker says officers are hustling to keep up with the increasing number of calls.
“Take last Sunday for example. There was 90-some calls and three officers working,” Chief Schoonmaker said. “It’s making it increasingly difficult for the officers to try to keep their distance from people.”
The department was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. COVID-19 recently struck the department for the second time since April.
“We originally had four officers which would have been about 10 percent of our department. Currently, those four officers have returned and now we have three additional officers who have contracted COVID,” Schoonmaker said.
Schoonmaker says he believes they probably contracted the virus while interacting with the public. Schoonmaker says due to the high call volume, officers could come into contact with up to 40 people on a daily basis.
The three officers are quarantined at home with mild symptoms, but it will be nearly a week before they’ll be back in the field.
“It definitely takes quite the impact on us because now we’re asking additional officers to come out, work additional shifts, and just handle our increasingly high call volume,” Schoonmaker said.
They’re decontaminating the facilities and disinfecting the vehicles before and after each shift and each transport. The virus is an added concern when it comes to hiring new officers, but Schoonmaker says they plan to take every necessary precaution throughout the testing process.
Despite the pandemic, Schoonmaker says he’s already heard from several interested applicants. Applications are due on August 9th and testing will be held on August 16th.