Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Law Enforcement's Response to Public Health Emergencies

Public health emergencies, whether manmade or natural, are first and foremost the responsibility of public health agencies at the federal and state level. Many law enforcement agencies mistakenly believe they must "take charge" in such an emergency. The problem, however, is that law enforcement is ill-prepared and poorly equipped to have the primary responsibility in dealing with a public health emergency.

That is not to suggest that law enforcement has no role at all. It has an important role: It must support the public health agencies in their interactions with the public.

To better help law enforcement agencies prepare to assume their important but secondary role responding to public health emergencies, the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance has prepared a 39-page guide titled The Role of Law Enforcement in Public Health Emergencies - Special Considerations for An All-Hazards Approach.

The September 2006 publication has three major divisions:
  • Preparing the department to be mentally and logistically prepared for public health emergencies
  • Protecting officers so they are less likely to become victims of the emergency (guns, Tasers, extendible batons, and handcuffs are surprisingly ineffective against bacteria and virii)
  • Protecting the community during and after the health emergency.