Salinas Police Department

The back of the Salinas Police Department in downtown Salinas.

Five Salinas Police Department officers and nine civilian employees of the department have been placed on self-isolation following what three sources say was "significant exposure" to an SPD employee diagnosed with Covid-19.

One of the sources, all of whom asked to remain anonymous because they're not authorized to speak to the media about the situation, says the exposure to the infected employee "was huge" in terms of the number of employees who came into contact with that person.

Salinas Police spokesman Miguel Cabrera could not be reached for immediate comment. City officials said a press release would be issued sometime today.

Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter, a retired SPD homicide detective, says the employee who tested positive and the others who were exposed to that employee are following the protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control by self-isolating.

"We're doing everything we have to do to keep them safe and the public safe," Gunter says. 

Officer Jim Knowlton, head of the Salinas Police Officers Association, says the department was alerted at 2am to the positive test, and anyone who had significant contact with the infected employee was asked to come forward.

The department, he says, began working on an emergency staffing plan last week, based on the eventuality that Covid-19 would hit the department. But that plan, he says, was reactive rather than proactive. 

"We are running on shoestring staffing anyway and it became apparent that in not too many days we could be in a critical situation," Knowlton says. "We needed to determine how we could mitigate it and not have as much face-to-face contact, so we wouldn't be cross-pollinating across watches.

Both the police managers union and the POA, which represents the rank-and-file officers, are looking at a plan put together by the Concord Police Department that, if adopted in Salinas, would have a third of the department at work at any given time, and the other two-thirds at home.

It would see the department cancel special assignments and go to 12-hour shifts, a proactive step to get a sustainable schedule in place for the next six weeks.

"That would allow us to continue to provide services at a level that even if people get sick, we have enough people to cover calls," he says. 

In the meantime, staff is scrambling to find protective gear—PPE, or personal protective equipment—and hand sanitizer.

"We're going through it like nobody's business," he says. "After every call, we're scrubbing ourselves down, and we haven't yet had to respond to a call where someone is either sick or dead."

This is a developing story and will be updated as soon as more information is obtained. 

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