What is The Role of Law Enforcement in Public Health Emergencies?


Law enforcement, as the name suggests, is all about maintaining law and order. With this article we will try to honor this profession by sharing the most important tasks that these modern day heroes are responsible for.

When a public health emergency such as an outbreak of disease happens, they need to maintain the status quo.

When public health officials provide help and support to the victims, making sure these people get home is the job of the police.

In addition to rendering help, law enforcement also secures the area to avoid further casualties.

This article will walk you through how law enforcement is helpful to public health officials and the population.

Here’s how they render their support in helping public health officials.

The 6 Main Roles of Law Enforcement in Public Health Emergencies:


1. Gauge The Situation.

The first thing the law enforcement needs to know is how bad the situation is.

Usually, through police channels, different departments can inform each other. Information such as how far the public health crises spread.

How much is the population affected, and how are hospitals faring?

The situation informs the law enforcement how prepared they need to be.

Will they need PPE and heavy equipment to get people out, or do they need to show up. After they successfully analyze the situation, the next step is action.

2. Dispatching Relevant Help.

Many people are doing social work in police departments that can help public health professionals.

It means securing the population from a disease outbreak by taking them to safer locations. They also administer mediation in the form of IVs or injections to those who are sick.

In case there is a natural disaster, rescuing people from the affected site. When all hands are on deck, it is easy for the law enforcement agencies to account for the lives lost.

It also helps them to inform hospitals on how many people to expect and how many died.

3. Help Identify The Victims.

When a public health emergency breaks out, there are casualties. Law enforcement has access to the federal database that allows them to identify victims. It can help law enforcement connect the victims to their families.

It also helps them discuss with the government what legal policies need to come into the picture.

Suppose public health crises occurred due to government negligence, such as a chemical leakage.

In that case, they need to take responsibility. Law enforcement can help the government devise new policies and even compensate the victims and their families.

It can help the government keep tabs on their database on how the population suffered during a crisis.

4. Provide Information On Credible Threats and Implement Voluntary Restrictions If Needed.

While public health officials are working on helping the victims, the police are still assessing the situation.

In case of a disease outbreak, law enforcement can inform hospitals if there are other potential outbreaks.

In case of a natural disaster, they can keep tabs if another disaster is on the horizon.

It is essential because while medical staff and the public take care of the population, there needs to be an eye out if the situation is under control.

It ensures if there is another looming disaster, the population can move to safety and receive protection.

Such as in case there is a hurricane or the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.

In a public health crisis, there are restrictions levied on the population. In case of a disease outbreak, the population gets advised to stay home. Law enforcement is allowed to patrol the streets and make sure the law gets followed.

If people don’t listen and show resistance, the police are within their rights to arrest people.

The police can also decide how schools, hospitals, and even universities should behave during these times.

If the situation is severely out of control, it may also cause international restrictions and prevent airlines from operating. We witnessed this happening during the pandemic.

Since the virus was spreading and causing a massive pile up of cases worldwide, there was a need for help. Law enforcement put strict policies to make sure essential workers are the only ones on the street.

5. Provide Logistical Support and Devise An Emergency Plan.

It is hard to access roads during any public health crisis and get the necessary support and security. Law enforcement can step in and clear the road and drive the medical staff to those in need. Law enforcement also has satellite and radio channels that can help medical professionals to contact one another.

It is essential because there is always a chance of a power outage or telephone lines crashing down. Law enforcement can also provide security because there is a chance during a public health crisis that mobs may strike up and cause a riot.

Law enforcement agencies also need to devise an emergency plan in case things don’t pan out. It can occur when the situation gets out of control. Suppose hospitals are at saturation point and can no longer support more patients.

In such cases, law enforcement needs to work with both government and public health officials to devise an emergency strategy. It can be a mass evacuation.

They may have to confine the population to one area and restricting who gets help first. They may also barricade roads to ensure it gets used by public and medical health officials.

They may also become in charge of supplying food and water to the population and even help doctors take care of patients. They may perform minor tasks such as bandaging and assisting a patient to a bed.

6. Provide Security To The Stockpile.

For every public health crisis, there is a limited number of stockpiles.

This stockpile gets compiled in response to the emergency. It can range from medical equipment to ration supplies.

Since the population is in disarray and people need resources, they may act out of desperation.

So, there is a need to protect the stockpile and make sure that it goes out organized.

It ensures that the population gets cared for and society goes back to normal. Law enforcement also extends their help in case of quarantine.

It is because not everyone willingly goes into self isolation. It is also essential that those in quarantine are away from those who are not sick.

So, law enforcement has the authority to clear a hospital wing and make sure only selective members of the hospital can access those patients.

What you should remember?

Law enforcement plays a vital role in protecting and taking care of the population during a public health emergency.

They use their Intel and resources to assess the situation and make a plan accordingly. Some police officers get trained to help people with social work and support victims find help.

They can also help identify victims and devise policies that can help compensate for the families.

In addition to the support they provide, law enforcement also keeps an eye on the situation.

It is to ensure if the situation escalates, they know when to intervene. Intervention may be in the form of securing stockpiles, clearing the road, and even banning international travel.

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