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WIU professors take a closer look at how COVID-19 is impacting police departments

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A new study out of Western Illinois University's Law Enforcement and Justice Administration School takes a closer look at how COVID-19 is affecting police departments.

Professor Niyazi Ekici and his colleague, Dean Alexander, surveyed more than 200 police departments across Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio on how the virus is impacting them.

Ekici said COVID-19 accounted for 65 percent of total police officer deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and made up 64 percent of the deaths through the first nine months of 2021.

"The leading cause for the police deaths for COVID-19 in 2020. In 2021, this year, so far we have, unfortunately, 340 deaths. And out of 340 deaths, we have 218, COVID-related deaths."

More than 90 percent of respondents say new safety measures like personal protective equipment and sanitizing were deployed, but only 68 percent say their department actually has an increased interest in keeping them safe and healthy.

Ekici said because this was a short, self-reporting survey, it doesn't get into nuances allowing for specific judgments on police officer behaviors. But making macro-level comparisons, he said the general political leaning of a state does appear to factor into law enforceent vaccination attitudes. Comparing red-leaning Texas to deep blue Illinois offers one such example.

"In some states, they are doing good, but in some other, basically southern states, they are not doing good. So, and we are losing manpower, and this is very unfortunate," he said.

Ekici said there are more opportunities for study around the issues on how COVID-19 is impacting police departments.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.