Richland PD: Don’t call 911 about COVID-related questions

Rpd: Don't Call 911 For Covid Related Questions

RICHLAND, Wash. – Calls at the 911 dispatch center have been on the rise. Many of them are from people asking about COVID-19 and rumors being spread.

The Tri-Cities dispatch center covers Benton and Franklin counties as well as a small portion of Walla Walla. According to the Richland Police, people are calling both 911 and the non-emergency number to have their questions answered.

“A lot of it is rumors that they’re hearing, and then there’s other things – what did the governor just say, where can I find that information about whatever,” said Richland Police Capt. Chris Lee. “A lot of the times those questions can be answered by seeking out the governor’s webpage or going to the department of health’s webpage or the World Health Organization’s.”

Some people have called dispatchers to ask how many people they’re allowed to have in the car at one time. Many are also asking dispatchers about gatherings of people.

“Some of the calls that we’ve been receiving is people walking down the sidewalk and they want an officer to go separate them,” Lee said. “Or they see people out on the public trails or public parks and those types of things, which are open and people are still allowed to used.”

Lee said calling 911 is tying up their lines for emergencies versus non-emergencies.

“Ultimately the dispatcher is just going to relay that call for service out to an officer and then the officer is going to have to direct them somewhere else when they can just obtain that information from the source without having to call 911 or into the communications center,” he said.

However, police will respond to an area if there’s a large number of people gathering.

“Our role is still an educational posture and going to go and educate the individuals that are doing that to try and get them to comply,” Lee explained.

When it comes to reporting businesses not being in compliance with the governor’s orders, Lee said people should go to the governor’s website to report it or the Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office.

Dispatchers are also taking precautions for the other first responders before they respond to a call. Lee said they’re asking people if they have any flu-like symptoms in order to limit the exposure of COVID-19 to officers and firefighters.

If you have COVID-19 questions, visit the health websites such as the CDC, your local health department, WHO. For business-related questions, visit the governor’s webpage.