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Omicron Surge Strains California Police Agencies

Since the Omicron surge began in December, some smaller law enforcement agencies have been forced to increase overtime, reduce services and reroute non-emergency calls to online portals, CalMatters reports. The contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus has shaken California’s labor market. Law enforcement officers and first responders — who are increasingly exposed to risky, one-on-one contacts and super-spreader events — are having to make do with fewer people. “Our people are tired,” said Lt. Ray Kelly, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. “They are working extra hours; they’re working extra shifts…picking up the slack where they have to.”

This month, as COVID cases rose, California Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the California National Guard to work with communities to add more testing sites. The governor has called on the Guard several times since the pandemic began to secure the Capitol from potential armed protesters and to distribute goods at food banks, among other things. As state-level law enforcement agencies say they are experiencing outbreaks within their ranks, so are local police departments – often with fewer resources. In Yuba County, which has the state’s highest rate of COVID hospitalizations, the small sheriff’s department has called in part-time reserve officers as the virus spread through its ranks. While smaller agencies struggled, in Los Angeles, one of the nation's largest police forces said it was able to maintain business as usual after nearly 900 officers were out last week.


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