GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As much of the state is now working from home, the folks at the Kent County Sheriff's Department remain on the roads and in our communities making sure people stay safe.
FOX 17 spoke to Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young over Zoom Wednesday afternoon to hear how they are handling the new challenges that come with a worldwide viral pandemic.
“I think it's incredibly important that as a community, we understand that this is difficult. It has a lot of anxiety for people to not know what they can count on," Sheriff LaJoye-Young told FOX 17. “And I think it's imperative that we continue to reassure each other that the systems that are here to protect you are intact.”
Sheriff LaJoye-Young has taken a very proactive approach focused on transparency during the state's shutdown. In regular public announcements and videos on social media she has outlined the methods being developed to handle a growing list of new concerns associated with the virus.
The Sheriff's Department operates both the Kent County jail and dispatch center.
In terms of call volume, the Sheriff says they have not received a huge surge in the number of calls they are taking, but they are seeing different types of calls right now.
“We've had a lot of people who are considering hurting themselves or attempting suicide. Domestics are one of the most significant number-wise of cases that we're responding to and then certainly people who are complaining about somebody not following the executive order," Sheriff LaJoye-Young said Wednesday.
“Investigating compliance for the executive order is not a call type we've ever dealt with before. But that does go in as a medium priority… we're going to respond to it in a timely manner.”
In terms of handling the jail, Sheriff LaJoye-Young says she understands the potential health hazards of having so many people stuck together in close confines.
In a video the department posted to social media on Tuesday evening, Sheriff LaJoye-Young said, “We've done quite a bit with all of the area judges to make sure that every individual who is incarcerated, their case has been reviewed to see if there's a potential that they can be released without any Jeopardy to the community.”
In addition to these efforts, anyone still processed into the jail has to wear a face mask until they are cleared of having the virus.
"The steps that we've taken to protect their safety, I think it's our responsibility. And it's in the community's interest because every one of the individuals who are incarcerated today, they're going to be released. And if we haven't done what we needed to to keep them safe, they have the ability to cause Jeopardy for every single person in our community,” she told FOX 17.
Sheriff LaJoye-Young says it's been a trying time for officers dealing with these new challenges.
"It is emotionally and physically draining. But people are handling it really well. I mean, these are individuals who are built for adversity, if you will," she said.
"It's not that they don't also have issues and things that they're going to need to talk through, things that they're going to need to work through. But they're made for this."
The entire department remaining adaptable throughout the shutdown to make sure the essential work they do remains uninterrupted.
“I think it's critical that every Citizen knows that when you dial 911, somebody is still going to come and that those individuals are going to be equipped to deal with your your issue. And that we are still the safety net in our community and plan to be so throughout this," Sheriff Lajoye-Young said.
"This is when West Michigan is at its very, very best, when there's some kind of adversity and we truly appreciate the members of this community."