With major spikes in the last few months in Central Texas, COVID-19 is currently the leading cause of death for law enforcement in the U.S. According to Spectrum News, numbers from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that from January to June of 2020, 76 of the 155 nationwide line-of-duty deaths were a result of the virus.
“There’s not a week gone by that we haven’t been involved in a funeral,” said Rick Randall with the Austin Police Department.
Randall who has been 25 years on the force is the APD chaplain, his job is to console and counsel his coworkers, and he says there’s been a whole lot of that recently.
“We’ve never had a time in all the years I’ve been associated with policing where we’ve had so many deaths in such a short span of time,” he said.
Randall is also the Health and Wellness Division director. He estimates between 60-70% of officers are now vaccinated. He says vaccination rates are a major factor now, but many of these deaths occurred because law enforcement lacked PPE last year and weren’t included on the priority list for the first round of vaccinations. CLEAT fought for legislation that is now law to make COVID a preemptive illness and provide benefits for public safety employees who get COVID on duty.
APD will now require COVID tests once a week for frontline officers and that more officers are now inquiring about vaccination.