‘When these policemen entered the service, they probably thought that death in the line of duty would come in the form of a body-piercing bullet from a criminal’s gun, not a ubiquitous, virulent virus that they would get while manning a checkpoint.’
THE Philippine National Police, like any other big organization, has had its share in sacrificing several lives of its members in the nationwide fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Latest reports say that more than 300 policemen have been infected by the coronavirus, and four of them have died. When these policemen entered the service, they probably thought that death in the line of duty would come in the form of a body-piercing bullet from a criminal’s gun, not a ubiquitous, virulent virus that they would get while manning a checkpoint.
But that is life, and the police leadership and rank-and-file have come to accept that the government response to the pandemic would entail sacrifices — some big and some small. This truism was first realized and accepted as inevitable by frontliners in the public health care community.
Even at the height of the local epidemic, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa has instructed his team to prepare the police organization for the conduct of efficient police work when the nation transitions to the new normal. The result is the 6-point guidelines the PNP provides its officers and men to be observed under the new dispensation.
The PNP will now follow these guidelines:
1. Adherence to minimum health standards — These are DOH-defined non-pharmaceutical interventions that do not involve vaccines and medications which individuals and communities can carry out to mitigate the spread of contagion.
2. Use of information and communications technology (ICT) to minimize transmission of disease by migration of physical/in-person processes to a virtual environment thru the use of electronic communication platforms, social media, and devices such as drone, CCTV, and body-worn camera.
3. Revised deployment scheme and work schedule — Adjustments to ensure that all PNP personnel, particularly frontliners, are free from infection and are fit for work thru work-from-home arrangement, skeleton workforce, 4-day (compressed) work-week and staggered working hours.
4. Enhanced personal knowledge/competency — Integration of health-related learning in the curriculum of various police courses and training programs.
5. Enhanced workspace and infrastructure adjustments — For both office and vehicles to ensure that risk of infection is minimized, and
6. New equipment and additional funding for test kits, PPE, collapsible tents, hospital beds, IT equipment, connectivity, and non-lethal police intervention equipment.
Gamboa has realized that these changes in police work and environment, digitization and infrastructure, would need a huge budget and lots of training for the implementors. But at least, nobody among its critics can say that the PNP is remiss in its preparations for the new normal.