New Canaan Police through the first two months of 2020 responded to seven calls for psychiatric problems, officials said last week—up from just one the prior year and expected to rise steeply amid the COVID-19 emergency.
The figure will “continue to increase because of lots of different issues regarding anxiety and bringing out behavioral health issues related to the COVID crisis,” according to Police Chief Leon Krolikowski.
“So I expect to have more medical calls and more psychiatric calls,” he said during the March 23 meeting of the Police Commission, held via videoconference.
New Canaan had 48 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 or “COVID-19” as of Tuesday evening, according to Emergency Management Director Mike Handler. Five town residents have died from the virus. Those local businesses allowed to operate during the crisis have changed protocols in order to minimize the risk of transmission.
Police also have changed the way they work. Krolikowski announced last week that while officers will continue to respond to emergency calls—such as for medical emergencies or crimes-in-progress—they’re now required to limit contact with the public for safety’s sake. Incidents that can be investigated via phone, email or video chat will be handled that way until further notice, the chief said, while access to NCPD headquarters is restricted, the Records Department is closed and fingerprinting is suspended.
In reviewing department spending with the Commission, the chief noted that “except for the COVID expenses, our costs will be in budget but my expectation is that over the next several months we will be spending more than normal because of the COVID-19 and that’s going to drive our budget up.”
“I think everybody expects that to happen,” he said.
Asked for clarification, Krolikowski saod, “We have incurred a lot of expenses for supplies and I believe that is being allocated among all the different departments. And at some point we will likely see some people out because of illness which will drive [overtime] up.”
The department also is down six officers at the moment, he said, because four new officers are undergoing field training until May, one is attending the Connecticut Police Academy remotely and will not come to New Canaan until July and a vacancy opened last month with the retirement of a lieutenant.