Spotlight on Petersburg Bureau of Police, 2018 PPE Contest Winners
Aftermath has been a long-time supporter of law enforcement; we are proud to recognize the services they provide to their communities by sponsoring events nationwide, including golf outings, charity runs, and special banquets. Aftermath contributes to national and regional associations and offers access to complementary programs, resources, and special rates on jail cell and squad car cleanings. We also host contests like our Spring PPE Contest.
On today’s blog, we talk with Lt. Gregory Geist of the Petersburg Bureau of Police, one of the 5 grand prize winning departments that were outfitted with life-saving PPE kits as part of this year’s contest. Read on to learn more about the Petersburg PD and what PPE kits mean for these officers.
Life in Petersburg, VA
Petersburg, VA is part of the “Tri-City” area of Virginia. It is located on the Appomattox River, 21 miles south of the state capital of Richmond. Petersburg itself is 26 square miles and home to 32,000 citizens. “We’re right there in the middle of it all,” says Petersburg PD Lieutenant Gregory Geist.
The department employs an average of 100 officers, but the budget-strapped city is short on resources. “We don’t have enough cars for each patrolman so they share cars. We have 25-30 cars, which we would like to outfit with PPE. Patrol officers and detectives are the first line of defense and need PPE kits the most.”
Unlike some of the other winning departments, Petersburg has a high violent crime rate. Lt. Geist relates: “We have a lot of crime in this area. The main types of crime include homicides, shootings, and robberies. We usually have 8 to 16 homicides a year. We’re already trending toward a higher homicide rate this year; we’ve had 8 homicides so far in 2018.”
Mental Health Crisis Creates Safety Challenges
In addition to violent crime, the department is also strained by the ongoing mental health crisis: “We have a hospital and two mental health hospitals in our jurisdiction. We provide daily transport of patients to and from these facilities.” Petersburg officers also handle disturbances and staff issues at the facilities.
Given this difficult situation, safety is a big concern for Petersburg officers. As with any disturbance, officers are at risk of direct exposure to biohazards, creating an increased need for PPE. “While transporting patients, our officers are often spat on or face other instances in which bodily fluids are involved,” explains Lt. Geist. “When this happens, our officers have to go through a full health screening to make sure that they are safe and free of any transmittable viruses or diseases. This is where PPE kits would come handy.”
Petersburg PD already has a policy in place for communicable diseases. Lt. Geist is currently amending the policy to require all patrol officers have a PPE kit in their vehicle, plus training on how to use the PPE kits and equipment properly. A written safety protocol will assist officers with understanding the importance of safety, particularly against biohazards.
How PPE Kits Will Help Petersburg
Like many police departments, the biggest challenge faced by the Petersburg Bureau is budgeting. Lt. Geist describes his frustrations, attempting to keep his officers safe: “As a Commander with the Petersburg Bureau of Police, I take very seriously my obligation to keep our officers as safe as possible as they go about their mission of serving our community. Since I have taken over as the Investigations Commander I have requested protective gear for my forensics Detectives and every year I am denied due to lack of funding. Our officers and detectives are continuously going to calls for service and entering crime scenes with no protective gear.”
For the officers of Petersburg, the Aftermath PPE Contest afforded an opportunity to receive much needed supplies. “I view PPE as a way of providing my fellow officers with the peace of mind they deserve,” explains Lt. Geist. “All police officers have a duty belt with numerous tools attached. Having a PPE kit is just another tool to help save lives. Many officers, myself included, have walked through blood during the course of a workday. Following a long day at the scene, you forget, go home, and then you walk through your house. Even if there is no blood visibly present, I know other dangers can be invisible to the eye. In houses with children or pets, tracking in this bio can be especially hazardous.”
Geist states that the PPE kits will also help the Bureau avoid and reduce workplace accidents and sickness. “Our department will benefit from a reduction in sick days and administration time/costs in recording and reporting illness and accidents. Using PPE will help our officers to avoid accidents, and prevent costly legal expenses and compensation payouts. PPE kits will bring health, safety, and welfare to our Police Officers and Detectives and will promote a happy workforce, boost productivity, morale and the department’s reputation.”
Aftermath Cares About Law Enforcement
This year’s PPE Contest is over, but our support for law enforcement continues through the year. Look for announcements concerning our Annual K9 Grant later this fall. And for the second year in a row, we’re hosting an annual service awards program to honor local heroes who go above and beyond in their communities. Our Why We Serve service awards program is going on right now. Nominate yourself or a fellow officer through July 9th!
To find out how to nominate yourself or another officer in your area for one of our service grants in this summer’s Why We Serve Campaign, visit our entry page.
To learn more about our services for law enforcement agencies, please visit our page for law enforcement.
To follow the officers of Petersburg Bureau of Police, visit their Facebook Page.