Coronavirus spreading among Bay Area police agencies

Coronavirus is gaining a toehold in law enforcement.

In the Bay Area, the virus has now infected the ranks of at least eight agencies.

On Wednesday, the  San Francisco sheriff's office said four of its deputies and a cadet tested positive for COVID-19. Two deputies work at the jail at the Hall of Justice.

At the San Francisco Police Department, a sergeant who works with the special victims unit - also at the Hall of Justice is infected as well.  And many others may have been exposed.

"They may be asymptomatic right now, but that does not mean you cannot have the virus," said Tony Montoya, San Francisco Police Officers Association president.

Besides law enforcement with SFPD and  theSF sheriff's office, those with COVID-19 include five Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies, three Oakland police officers, three Santa Rosa officers, a reserve San Jose officer, a Santa Clara officer and a Vallejo officer.

Police and deputies are frustrated because there's no standard playbook for COVID-19 testing for law enforcement. It all depends on the jurisdiction, with a patchwork quilt of regulations and minimum requirements to get tested.

"I do feel that each county, each agency is kind of left on their own to try to figure it out," Montoya said. "Now, more than ever we need to come together."

Montoya said his priority is to make sure his officers know whether they have the virus.

"Our biggest frustration right now is trying to get our members tested in a timely manner," he said. 

As tests are underway, some agencies are minimizing contact with the public. The Santa Clara County sheriff's office says it's being less proactive on more minor issues.

Even with the risks posed to law enforcement, the Contra Costa Deputy Sheriff's Association is against a proposal by other county unions for hazard pay for employees. 

"We don't get into this work to try to make more money because our job is hard," said sheriff's Sgt. Shawn Welch, the union's president. "We get into this work to serve the community that we work and live in. That's why we're here."

Police say they cannot shelter in place or telecommute. They want to help people but say they deserve all the proper protections and testing.