Police Department Holds a Super-Spreader: California COVID Cases and What They Mean Today

On November 5th, dozens of police officers were seen uniformed and masked shoulder to shoulder for a picture commemorating the end of weeks of tactical training. Later that day, however, an informal picture shows the same few dozen police officers unmasked side by side in yet another picture. These events were later shown on Twitter and has brought with it an outcry.

Within a few weeks, the department reported dozens of infections within its ranks. Two local community groups are calling for an investigation into the source of this, and many people sent complaints to the city’s Citizen Complaint Commission over whether the department’s COVID practices led to a rise in cases as the pictures suggest. One Long Beach Resident accused the police of “knowingly and willfully ordering a super spreader event.” The Long Beach Police Department later came out ensuring that none of the current COVID cases have been linked to the training. Chief Luna, the head of the Long Beach police department, also said that many of these cases have come from the families of the police officers. 

The picture showing officers without masks was taken after weeks of training that the officers went through in order to be able to handle any civil unrest in the weeks following the election. In recognition of officer dedication during the civil unrest, the officers were present for a ten minute speech given by Luna, who was thanking them for working extra shifts and participating in riot response drills. However, the officers were, as pictures show, standing close to one another during the speech. An anonymous officer later revealed that many of the officers had been asked to remove their masks. These sudden cases following this event are one contributing factor to California’s skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases. The state is reporting record highs regularly and has had over 1.5 million cases and 21,400 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Los Angeles county accounts for approximately a third of the state’s cases and to no surprise, includes the city of Long Beach. Luna later ensured that none of the officers that came in contact with the virus suffered serious illness.

It was also discovered that until November 19th, two weeks after the commemorative event occurred, Long Beach Police Employees were not mandated to wear masks. The officers are now required to wear a mask unless they are alone in a car or office. The department said that their rules are directly following that of the City of Long Beach, which suggest that a mask be worn anytime one is outside of their home. The department then said that those who fail to abide by these mandates will be met with disciplinary actions and possible dismissal. Now, the department has officers regularly wearing masks–a step toward controlling the outbreaks within its ranks. In the aftermath of these events, many people around the community expressed frustration with these officers who had been enforcing the laws whilst not taking proper safety measures for the community.