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Could retired police officers be called back to duty in St. Louis area?

There is a concern coronavirus could reduce staffing
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — Another St. Louis police sergeant has been hospitalized with symptoms of the coronavirus, 5 On Your Side has learned.

That means there are now two sergeants, both from the traffic division, who have been hospitalized and are presumed to have the coronavirus. A third traffic sergeant has tested positive for the virus, but remains asymptomatic, sources have told 5 On Your Side.

And they worked at police headquarters in downtown St. Louis.

As a precaution, the two dozen or so officers who make up the city’s Traffic Division have been put on quarantine, according to the sources.

St. Louis County confirmed Saturday that one of its officers tested positive for the virus, but has not said where that officer worked.

RELATED: St. Louis traffic division quarantined after sergeant tests positive for COVID-19

It’s a trend police leaders across the region fear could continue, and one that has St. Louis city and county leaders preparing to ask pools of retirees to return to service if necessary.

5 On Your Side reported on March 12 that county police leaders sent an email to dozens of retirees asking if they would be available to return to duty.

Now, it appears, city leaders are considering the same idea, according to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s spokesman Jacob Long.

“We are asking retired officers to come back and serve if we get into a situation where we need to do that,” he said. “It’s not as easy as it might sound because you would have to make sure they are still POST commissioned and meet all the necessary employment requirements, but it’s something the mayor believes is worth exploring.”

POST stands for Peace Officer Standards and Training, and it is the statewide accreditation agency for police officers. Those with licenses to be police officers have to meet certain criteria and keep up with continuing education courses.

What capacity retired officers might serve remains unclear, but it’s most likely they will serve in a supporting role rather than on patrol, Long said.

“Obviously we can’t have a guy who retired in the Sixth District,” Long said of the city’s most violent district. “We have to look at what our needs are and go from there.

“Everything is on the table and changes by the hour.”

In New York City, one of the hardest hit by coronavirus in the country, the New York Times reports that the city’s 911 system has been overwhelmed by calls for medical distress. Typically, the system sees about 4,000 EMS calls a day, but last week, dispatchers took more than 7,000 calls -- a volume the newspaper reports hasn't been seen since the Sept. 11 attacks.

RELATED: St. Louis County Police Department asking retired officers to work amid coronavirus concerns

In St. Louis County, an email went out to about 100 retirees listing examples of the work they could be tasked with, including taking informational calls, completing reports after a telephone-only investigation and answering precinct phones. The department is offering to pay retirees with current firearms qualifications $25 and hour, and $20 to those without.

St. Louis County councilman Tim Fitch, also the department’s former chief, was among those asked to return if needed.

He said he would volunteer his time rather than accept a paycheck should the retirees get called back to duty.

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