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Sheriff’s Office Frequently asked Questions Regarding COVID-19

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Sheriff's Office Frequently asked Questions Regarding COVID-19

by Sheriff Jim Skinner


Collin County Sheriff


1.       How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the Sheriff's Office?

The Sheriff's Office remains committed to keeping the peace, enforcing the law, safeguarding the county jail, and maintaining public safety.

During the pandemic and related states of disaster, deputy sheriffs, detention officers, and other personnel will take certain precautions, such as practicing social distancing and handling more functions over the phone, by email, and through County or County-approved websites. We will screen persons, including our own personnel, other peace and corrections officers, detainees, and visitors to the Sheriff's Office, including the Collin County Detention Facility (the county jail) in order reduce the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Also, some activities will be suspended or curtailed.


2.       How long do you expect this to last?

At this point, that is unclear. I and my staff will follow the directions from County Judge Chris Hill and the advice and guidance of federal, state, and local public-health authorities.

To recap: On March 13, the President declared a national emergency related to the virus, SARS-CoV-2, and the Governor and County Judge followed with declarations of a state of disaster for the State and Collin County on March 13 and 16. On March 19, the Governor issued Executive Order GA-08, and the State Commissioner of Public Health declared a public-health disaster in the State. The County Judge issued an Order of the County Judge (Mar. 19, 2020).

You can find more information on Collin County's website and download the Sheriff's App here:  Collin County Sheriff's App for Apple Devices and Collin County Sheriff's App for Android Devices

Collin County Detention Facility


3.       What is the Detention Facility doing to keep the inmates and employees safe from contracting the COVID-19?

The county jail is screening all staff at the beginning and end of their shifts. Staff also screen all incoming inmates at intake and have enhanced the cleaning procedures in housing, common areas, and other parts of the facility, including cleaning multiple times per day. Inmates are being told to keep their social distancing and follow recommended hygiene practices. The jail continues to provide cleaning supplies to inmates.

 

4.       When will visitations resume?

On March 13, 2020, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards suspended the visitation rules in county jails as part of the State's response to the coronavirus. This suspension will remain in effect until the Office of the Governor ends it or lifts its March 13, 2020 disaster declaration or until the declaration expires.


5.    What about attorney visitation?

Collin County has limited facilities for video visitation between the Collin County Courthouse and the Detention Facility.

Inmates can also call their attorneys from the Detention Facility.

The Detention Facility has started screening attorneys who seek to visit inmate-clients in the Facility. This screening will last during the state of disaster as well.


6.  Will the inmates get extra phone calls while the friends and family visits are suspended?

Before the current state of disaster, the Detention Facility afforded inmates one free five-minute phone call per week set on a monthly cycle (4 calls per 31 day cycle).

During the state of disaster, the Facility will provide inmates with two free ten-minute telephone calls per week set on a monthly cycle (8 calls per 31 day cycle).

Inmates will only be afforded a total of 8 free calls in the month of March.  The new cycle will begin April 1, 2020.


7.    Will the Detention Facility accept surety bonds or cash bonds/fines?

All bonds processing and collection of fines will continue at the Bonds Desk, located in the lower level of the Detention Facility.

The Detention Facility is working on procedures to electronically accept bonding instruments from licensed, local bond agencies.

The Detention Facility inventories the property of all incoming inmates and deposits an inmate's money on the inmate's commissary account.


8.    How do I place money on an inmate's commissary or phone account?

During the state of emergency, the Detention Facility will not accept commissary deposits in person. Deposits can be made at the Touchpay Payment Portal.  The Detention Facility will not share an inmate's account balance.

Inmates can transfer money from their commissary account to their phone account.

To place money on an inmate's phone account visit: ICSolutions.

You may also deposit money onto an inmate's commissary account through the Sheriff's App. The app will redirect you to the appropriate website for a secure transaction.

If you wish to send an iCare gift to an inmate, visit: ICare Shop


9.   Is the Detention Facility still doing weekend commitments?

The Collin County Courts have suspended weekend and intermittent sentences and work-release programming until May 4, 2020. The courts may extend or revise this suspension based on the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact your designated court or Community Supervision Officer.


10.   Can the public wait in the Detention Facility lobby for their loved ones to be released?

On March 16, 2020, President Trump's CoronavirusGuidelines for America called on Americans to slow the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.

On March 19, County Judge Chris Hill issued the Order of the County Judge (Mar. 19, 2020) and closed the county governmental offices for unscheduled, in-person services for the duration of his declaration of a state of disaster and public-health emergency.

Thus, the Detention Facility asks you to please wait in your vehicle for your loved one.

The President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America

County Judge issues executive order to suspend walk-in traffic at county buildings

Declaration of Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency


Operations Division of the Sheriff's Office


11.  What is the Operations Division?

The Sheriff's Office is roughly divided between the Detention Facility (the county jail) and its parts (like the Intake area and the Bonds Desk) and the Operations Division. As examples, the Patrol Section, Criminal Investigations, the Communications Center (Dispatch), and the Warrants and Records Section, are in the Operations Division.


12.   What's the best way to contact the Operations Division?

The best way to reach Patrol or Criminal Investigations, for example, is to call the Communications Center (Dispatch):

  • For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
  • For other calls, please call 972-547-5350.


13.  How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the Patrol Section?

Collin County deputies will continue to patrol as normal the 500 square miles of territory in the unincorporated areas of the County and in their patrol districts. But the deputies will also use social-distancing precautions when interacting with residents. For example, deputies won't shake hands and may talk to you from a distance.

When social distancing is not feasible, a deputy may use personal protective equipment to respond to a situation.

Currently, deputies use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that includes latex gloves and masks.


14.   How are deputies responding to calls for service?

To minimize face-to-face contact, deputies will handle calls that are not in progress by phone. Deputies will respond in person to in-progress calls.

Calls Not In Progress. Deputies will generally handle these calls and take reports by phone or by email: property damage, theft, and fraud. Again, these are only examples and not a complete list.

Domestic Disputes. Deputies will respond in person to physical and verbal domestic disputes.

Assaults. Deputies will respond in person to assaults that are ongoing or in progress.


15.    How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect Criminal Investigations?

Collin County criminal investigators, detectives, and forensic analysts will continue to investigate possible or reported crimes. Like patrol deputies, these investigators will take social-distancing precautions.

Criminal investigators will also respond to some calls and gather information or statements about reports of crimes by phone and email.

In addition to PPE like gloves and masks, criminal investigators also have special PPE to investigate the scene of a death, such as a Tyvek protective suit.


16.    I recently filed a criminal-offense report. Is my case still being investigated?

Yes. The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate reported crimes without interruption.


17.     How do I provide a statement to the Investigator?

Most investigations require statements from victims and witnesses. An investigator may ask you to answer questions or give a statement over the phone. An investigator may ask you to email your statement, if possible, rather than meeting in person.


Collin County Communications Center (Dispatch)


18.   What's the best way to contact the Communications Center (Dispatch)?

The best way to reach Patrol or Criminal Investigations, for example, is to call the Communications Center (Dispatch):

  • For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
  • For all other calls, please call 972.547.5350.


19.   Where in Collin County can a person get tested for COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Please visit www.cdc.gov for more information.

  • Most infected persons have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
  • There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.
  • People should comply with the recommendations about social distancing and the order about avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 persons; avoiding eating in bars, restaurants, and food courts (except that drive-through, delivery, and pickup options are encouraged); and refraining from visiting nursing homes and retirement and long-term-care facilities, unless to provide critical assistance, in Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-08 (March 19, 2020).
  • Link:  Governor Abbott Issues Executive Orders In Accordance With Federal Guidelines To Mitigate Spread Of COVID-19 In Texas
  • Link:  Executive Order Relating to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation
  • Testing results may help some persons make decisions about whether to meet other persons and, if it is justified, which persons to meet. Again, however, all persons should follow the Governor's Executive Order GA-08 (Mar. 19, 2020).
  • Please check with your local physician to see if he or she is offering coronavirus testing. If not, your physician may know of a facility that does currently offer testing.

 

On March 19, John W. Hellerstedt, M.D., Commissioner of Public Health for the State of Texas, declared a public-health disaster in the State related to COVID-19. His declaration included recommendations for persons who would seek "medical evaluation and treatment."


DECLARATION OF A PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTER IN THE STATE OF TEXAS


Testing sites can change daily, depending on willingness and capability to test. A facility's supply of proper protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns, masks, and face shields, can change rapidly. Always call first, describe your situation, and double check if testing is recommended and available.

Collin County's Public Health Department does not have a lab. So, the Department is not currently testing.


20.   Will Collin County set up testing sites like Dallas?

Not at this time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set up the testing centers in Dallas.

A person must meet strict criteria to be tested. The criteria can be found at www.cdc.gov.


21.   Where can a person be referred to for coronavirus testing?

A person may contact his or her local primary care physician to check on the availability of testing. But a person must meet strict criteria to be tested. The criteria can be found at www.cdc.gov.

 

22.   Is there a mandate that all restaurants in Collin County close their seating areas so that the only thing available is take out, drive through, and delivery?

Yes. In Executive Order GA-08 (Mar. 19, 2020), Governor Greg Abbott ordered (1) "every person in Texas" to "avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people," and (2) "people [to] avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors; provided that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order."

The Executive Order clarifies includes additional information. Links:

On March 19, 2020, John W. Hellerstedt, M.D., Commissioner of Public Health for the State of Texas, issued a Declaration of a Public Health Disaster in the State of Texas.

The declaration said, in part, "Restaurants should not allow dine-in options, either inside or outside. Take-out and curbside options with minimal contact are permitted and highly encouraged."

Link: Declaration of a Public Health Disaster in the State of Texas

In addition, many restaurants, bars, and food courts are located in a municipality, such as the City of Plano or City of McKinney. Those cities' declarations, orders, and ordinances also affect the operations of restaurants, bars, and food courts, in their jurisdiction and may require the closing of seating areas. Please consult your municipality for further information.


22.   If I call the Communications Center (Dispatch) at the Sheriff's Office and ask a public-health question, will I be referred to another number or source of information?

Yes. The Communications Center (Dispatch) answers and dispatches emergency 9-1-1 calls and other calls.

If you call with a public-health question, the call-taker will refer you to the Collin County Public Health Department's number, 972.548.5500.

Also, a person can go directly to the Public Health Department's site for more information on the coronavirus:


 A separate FAQ and a live-chat feed are available on the webpage.


Warrants and Records in the Sheriff's Office


23.   What methods of delivery are acceptable for agencies to send their warrants?

In an Order of the County Judge (Mar. 20, 2020), County Judge Chris Hill closed all county government buildings for unscheduled, in-person visits during the time of the state of disaster and public-health emergency for Collin County. Thus, the bonds window in the Sheriff's Office will be closed during the emergency.

Link: Declaration of Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency

Any agency can email a warrant to:

recordswarrants@co.collin.tx.us

Any agency can fax a warrant to 972.547.5304.

Please call to confirm receipt for either method: 972.547.5133.


24.   Where do I send my verification-of-incarceration affidavit to obtain a discharge of liability?

Please send the standard paperwork for a release of liability, CCP art. 17.16—the same paperwork that you would bring to the window in the Sheriff's Office—to recordswarrants@co.collin.tx.us.

For questions or assistance, please call 972.547.5133.

 

Public Information Act Requests


25.   Where do I send my request to obtain records under the Public Information Act?

Send your completed form to ccsoopenrecords@co.collin.tx.us.

You must fill out the form's top portion with all of your contact information in case we need clarification about your request.

To try to reduce delay during the emergency, the Sheriff's Office will waive fees for requests of $20 and less. If the fee for your request is over $20, then the Sheriff's Office will notify you at the email address you provide in the form and provide you with instructions for payment.

The Sheriff's Office will email you responsive documents to the email address you provide on the form or mail them to the physical address you provide on the form.

Longer response times may apply during the emergency. Link:

Texas Attorney General - Update: Cal­cu­la­tion of Busi­ness Days and COVID-19

For more information on various items normally obtained at the front window please visit: The Sherriff Open Records page or call 972.547.5100.