Navajo police share COVID-19 challenges, 5.30.20

PRESS RELEASE – Navajo Police Department meets challenges of securing personal protection equipment for NPD districts & continues to plan for the future

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Since the first case of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation was confirmed on March 17, the Navajo Police Department has worked tirelessly to secure much-needed PPEs for officers across the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Police Department, through its constant pursuit of vendors and seeking alternative solutions, navigated through the challenges and has been able to distribute over 28,717 masks, 22,000 pairs of gloves, and other miscellaneous PPEs to over 200 commissioned officers. However, the department continues to plan for future needs.

“In the beginning, like many law enforcement departments across the United States, we experienced the challenges of getting much-needed PPEs for the department.” Chief Francisco said. “Unfortunately, the influx in demand for PPEs caused delays on purchase as manufactures worked to fulfill orders, not just for law enforcement but for healthcare facilities.

With the first shipment of PPEs received in March from the Strategic National Stockpile, which consisted of face shields, gowns, and masks, distribution was made with priority going to the Kayenta District, who at the time, was in the heart of the epicenter.

However, the department’s Incident Command Systems (ICS) team had begun taking a proactive approach that did not rely heavily on waiting on supplies but rather the department began using its own funds to purchase PPEs through various channels and finding alternative solutions while simultaneously requesting equipment needs through the Navajo Health Command Operation Center.

The department also established internal preventative measures outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and internal procedures that emphasized limiting the risk of exposure. In addition, the department also explored other solutions, including securing fabric for homemade masks and constructing a homemade decontamination center for the Kayenta police district.

The department also worked closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in temporarily securing two mobile command units and decontamination trailers for the districts heavily impacted.

“We had to explore different avenues to see what we had access too, what would work and what wouldn’t. We have such a good working relationship with many of our vendors and programs that they help secure cleaning supplies and PPEs for our department to purchase.” Chief Francisco said, “As time progressed, our community also began to reach out to our department by providing in-kind donations to fill in the gaps”

Through those efforts, the department acquired over 31,000 various face masks, 22,000 pairs of gloves, and other miscellaneous needs that have all been accounted for and distributed to all seven police districts.

As a measure to ensure inventory is sustained, the police districts are required to provide inventory updates to the ICS team three times a week to ensure that districts are not lacking supplies.

“For accountability purposes, supplies and equipment that are received are inventoried through our NPD incident command and we distribution the items to the districts immediately.” Chief Francisco said. “It is my expectation to the ICS team is that once we receive the supplies, we inventory it and notify the district for pickup as soon as possible.”

In April, the department formulated a burn rate of PPEs that projected an estimated total of 500,000 PPEs needed for all Navajo Police Department officers for the next four months.

The total estimation includes an even amount of face masks, face shields, eyewear protection, and gowns for officers to have access to on a daily basis. The department has been working with the Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center in fulfilling those future needs.

“As long as there is a single case of this disease on the Navajo Nation, the threat is still there, not just for officers but for everyone.” Chief Francisco said. “Although we have been able to keep up with the demands, we are looking ahead and taking into account our future needs.”

Currently, through their weekly inventory reports, each police districts have an inventory balance of about 4,000 face masks, 2,000 gloves, and other miscellaneous PPEs on hand for officers.

“We continue to plan for the long term.” Chief Francisco said. “We will keep working with our program partners in keeping that supply steady until we can secure the bulk needs through HCOC. Although we do not solicit donations, we have had voluntary contributions to the department by community members and I am extremely grateful for what they have done for us as we continue to move forward.

The department has established over 12 COVID-19 related operations that included public service announcements checkpoints, community education initiatives, enforcement of Navajo Nation public health curfew orders, in addition to its daily service calls.

As of May 30, the Navajo Health Command Operations Center has reported 5,145 positive cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.

For more information regarding COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, please visit the Navajo Department of Health website at or call the Navajo Health Command Operations Center at 928-871-7014.

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