What information can law enforcement see on calls about coronavirus positive tests?

Police and fire crews responded to a house fire in August in the 1200 block of Lind Street in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Police and fire crews responded to a house fire in August in the 1200 block of Lind Street in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

BUTLER COUNTY ― In September, an Oxford house party resulted in some residents being civilly cited for violating the city’s ban on mass gatherings of more than 10 people.

The officer called to the Walnut Street residence on a noise violation learned through the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) backgrounding system that an alert that said a resident had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Aug. 31. The resident acknowledged the diagnosis and he was supposed to be in quarantine.

Because of that alert, the officer did not enter the house. The party of about 20 people was broken up and citations were handed out.

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Since April, first responders have been furnished, either through individual department information systems or LEADS, with information about residences, and in some cases individuals, who have tested positive for COVID-19 virus.

It is all about officer safety, according to health department officials and first responders. But the Oxford officer expressed surprise to see such information in the LEADS system. So have others.

“It pops up almost like a warrant in LEADS,” said Middletown police Chief David Birk. He said several officers have seen the information after running a license during a traffic stop. “Our local health department has been providing information about locations where people are quarantined and tested positive, and we are inputting that information in our internal system. This is additional information.”

Birk added, “We want our officers and the fire department to be prepared and as safe as possible.”

But in some cases when the information is attached to a registered owner of a vehicle, “it may be a bit of overkill," Birk said. He noted the registered owner may not be in the vehicle.

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According to Kristin Castle, director of communication for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, an April 14 order issued by the Ohio Department of Health directed local health departments to provide names and addresses of those residing in their jurisdiction who are coronavirus positive to first responder dispatch agencies to ensure first responders are outfitted with proper PPE when responding to an emergency at a residence.

“An agreement between the Ohio Department of Public Safety and ODH also provides this information directly from ODH to law enforcement officers through the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) to ensure that the same precautions are taken when officers interact with those who reside outside of their jurisdictions, such as during a traffic stop or at the scene of a car crash. Information is removed from the LEADS system 14 days after diagnosis,” Castle said.

Law enforcement throughout Butler County continues to input information provided by city or county health departments into individual systems. They say it is essential, up-to-date information.

“You get to a certain point where our folks have to assume anybody could be sick or be contagious. And we have to have safeguards in place to protect ourselves. Certainly having that information in real time is a benefit. The local health department has done a great job, but at the end of the day with the community spread growing we have to assume and be prepared that anybody we come in contact with could potentially be a carrier,” said Hamilton police Chief Craig Bucheit.

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