SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Police Officers Association is calling on local retailers to help procure protective supplies for officers on the front lines as the association claims the San Antonio Police Department isn't doing enough to protect officers from coronavirus.
In a news release sent out Wednesday, SAPOA president Mike Helle said the department gave officers expired hand sanitizer and is not handing out enough protective gear to officers.
“Our first responders are being poorly equipped to deal with this crisis," Helle said. "There aren’t enough masks and they’re being given expired hand sanitizer, probably left over from the Hurricane Katrina response. I am asking members of the business community to step up and partner with us to provide officers with the means to protect themselves as they do their jobs.”
Helle said the association is prepared to purchase the supplies, but called on retailers to help make the products readily available.
The San Antonio Police Department responded to the statement, saying that the distribution of the expired hand sanitizer was authorized by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency's public information office said they are following the CDC's recommendation of washing hands with soap and water and that the expired hand sanitizer is an effective way to sanitize when soap and water are not available.
SAPD said all officers have access to protective gear, including Tyvek suits, gas masks, infection barrier kits and more. The agency said they're ordering more protective supplies.
Read the full statement from San Antonio Police:
“The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to minimize the risk of spreading illness. This is the primary practice encouraged for SAPD officers. Additional safety equipment that is available to all officers are latex free nitrile gloves, infection barrier kits and their PPE gear which consists of a P-100 respiratory mask, gas mask and a Tyvek suit. The unopened expired hand sanitizer that was distributed is still an effective method to sanitize hands and was approved for distribution by the CDC. In the coming days, all substations will receive an additional supply of hand sanitizer and other protective gear to ensure officers have adequate protection. Additionally, more protective equipment has been ordered as we continue to monitor this pandemic. Officers routinely come in contact with individuals who due to sickness or injury require the need for this type protective equipment. Although we are taking extra precautions with COVID-19, our policies and training are in line with best practices. Simply put, the city has always provided the department with the necessary resources to safely do our job.”
Police said Wednesday they have not had any officer quarantined due to possible exposure to coronavirus as it relates to their official duties.