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Serving the frontlines, paying respect through the pandemic

By Ally Rogers, DIA Public Affairs

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As news of the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, many businesses and companies closed their doors, and employees were sent home to telework or wait for more information. But, first responders don’t have that choice. Their work can’t be done from the comforts of their home, and when mayhem strikes, more first responders answer the call for support.

The members of the Defense Intelligence Agency police force are no different. While much of the Agency is teleworking, conducting training from their homes or on admin leave awaiting the time to go back to the office, the DIA Police stands vigil.

“Serving during this pandemic can definitely be stressful at times,” said DIA Police Officer Aaron Maxwell. “As a federal law enforcement officer, I've trained primarily to use physical and other sensory attributes to perform my duties. However, with COVID-19, these same attributes could lead to myself or another officer potentially being exposed.”

After a health report declared that the coronavirus could live on clothing for up to 72 hours and dry cleaning would not kill the virus, the DIA Police switched to wearing the training uniform for duty, rather than the patrol uniform. The police can wash the training uniforms at home and in hot water. This made the clothes compliant per CDC recommendations and reduced the risk of infection.

Donning a different uniform than usual, CDC-compliant face coverings and protective gloves, the DIA Police haven’t altered their operations. It is business as usual.

Understanding the real dangers of their jobs, DIA’s Belinda Justice handmade and delivered thank you notes, goodie bags, snacks and water to the DIA Police.

“They deserve to know that their commitment and hard work is appreciated,” Justice said. “With sincere gratitude, I am grateful. Our police officers are our heroes.”

This is a sentiment shared in advertisements and YouTube messages from celebrities. A resounding “thank you” to first responders has been echoed near and far as the pandemic continues.

While, now more than ever, the Nation seems most appreciative of first responder efforts, every year the Nation recognizes the men and women who serve the front lines as police officers during National Police Week.

The tradition began in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week that day falls on as National Police Week. Events during this week pay homage to law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and honor and thank current serving police members. This year’s NPW is May 10-16.

With the current pandemic, many of the usual festivities were canceled. Some moved to a virtual format, and others continue as planned. One such event that had been in the works for months was the DIA Police’s first-ever wreath-laying ceremony. However, DIA Police Chief Andre Tibbs and National Capital Region Area Commander Maj. Robert Lownes planned every precaution so that participants were safe, abiding by CDC and Agency health guidance.

“Next year, we hope the workforce will be able to join us for the event,” said Tibbs. “But it was important that we still held this ceremony to pay respect to our fellow police.”

He went on to explain that, while the DIA Police is a federal entity, every person who has served or is serving in a law enforcement position understands and feels the pain of a line of duty loss.

For NPW events, more than U.S. police departments and civilians participate. International partners, such as from Canada and the UK, also send law enforcement officials to represent the departments at scheduled events, signifying the unity among those wearing a badge and donning the uniform across the globe.

“It was always a dream to do what I love each and every day,” said DIA Police Sgt. Nicolet Gibbs. “To serve during a time such as this has given me a newly profound respect for myself and fellow first responders, who choose to show up and perform their duties despite the exigent circumstances. It is good to know we are in this together.”

To learn more about the DIA Police, read about their lineage online, visit DIA.mil or the Agency’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). To learn more about the National Police Week schedule of events and changes, visit the NPW website