The LAPD plans to ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars in new funding to pay for equipment, building upgrades, and landscaping -- all aimed at reducing the spread of communicable diseases among officers who often work in filthy conditions.
The Department's proposed 2020-2021 budget includes requests for more than $2 million in facilities improvements, including $325,000 to purchase 50 boot sanitizers that use ultraviolet light to kill microbes and bacteria on the soles of officers' shoes.
"Environmental safety for our officers was paramount," said Robert Harris, a director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents most officers. The League purchased the first boot sanitizer in use at the Central Division at a cost of about $5,000, but said each police station needs one at each entrance for them to be effective.
"The majority of pathogens that come into an environment come in from the soles of shoes, and then they atomize, they get up in the air, they land on desks, and that's where our officers are being contaminated," Harris said.
NBC4's I-Team reported in 2018 and 2019 a number of LAPD officers and city workers reported they'd been exposed to infectious diseases, including typhus, salmonella, and MRSA. Most of the reports were made at the Central Area police station in downtown LA.
In March 2019 one officer contracted salmonella typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever. A second officer then reported that they had contracted typhus, a disease carried by infected fleas that travel on rats.
In June 2019 the LA County Board of Supervisors asked the County's public health department to develop a plan to control the spread of diseases, with a focus on areas overrun with trash and infested with rats.
"In the interest of protecting the health and safety of our residents and law enforcement personnel, the County must examine the root causes of the spread of communicable diseases associated with trash and rodent infestations," said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
The LAPD's budget proposal also includes new money to install hand washing stations in booking and report writing areas of police stations, so officers can immediately wash their hands after touching an arrestee or their personal property.
The department also plans to ask for funding to replace old carpet inside police stations and to remove overgrown landscaping in order to remove burrowing areas for rats and mice.