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Prosecutor Bans Cops From Asking Citizens To Tell Them If They Have Coronavirus

Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said that the requests were “totally inappropriate and therefore banned."

Bergen County, NJ – The Bergen County prosecutor has banned police from being able to ask COVID-19 patients to post signs outside their homes regarding their positive coronavirus status.

Bergen County has racked up more COVID-19 cases than any other county in the state of New Jersey as of Thursday, NJ.com reported.

In an effort to help better protect first responders, several law enforcement agencies within the county began asking residents who tested positive for COVID-19 “to self-identify when seeking police assistance and/or to post notices on their residences,” Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella wrote in a directive on March 28.

The prosecutor declared that the law enforcement agencies’ requests were “totally inappropriate and therefore banned,” according to NJ.com.

“Several of our law enforcement agencies have, without authorization by the [Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office], gone beyond the guidelines,” Musella said. “Asking COVID-19 positive/quarantined individuals to self-identify that status when they seek police assistance may discourage those [with coronavirus] from seeking police assistance when they need it, thus endangering them, their families and the general public.”

Musella said that police can use other resources to obtain the names and address of local residents who test positive for COVID-19, The Record reported.

He also ordered that local law enforcement agencies immediately remove any social media postings they had made regarding such requests.

Police said that they had requested citizens notify them about their positive coronavirus status on a voluntary basis.

“It was just a measure of safety to protect the officers and the EMS workers that may be coming to the house, that’s all,” Saddle River Police Chief Jason Cosgriff told The Record. “We’re just trying to work through a pandemic, and this is the first global pandemic I’ve ever worked through.”

“Everybody’s trying to do the right thing here,” Glen Rock Police Chief Dean Ackermann echoed. “We’re in uncharted territory, and we’re building a response program as we drive.”

Musella argued that first responders should operate under the assumption that everyone they come into contact with has been infected by the novel coronavirus, especially considering the fact that many people are asymptomatic or haven’t been tested, The Record reported.

Holly Matkin - April Fri, 2020

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