MARBLEHEAD – When Marblehead police officers respond to an incident these days, their perspective has changed. They’re not only concerned with protecting themselves and the person they’re dealing with, they’re now thinking about their families at home and the need to guard against possible exposure to the coronavirus.
“We have police officers who have young children,” said Lieutenant David Ostrovitz of the Marblehead Police Department. “We go to work and there’s this added emotional challenge – dealing with the unknown. If everyone had a date that people could wrap their heads around when this would be over, it would be easier, but not knowing, being in flux, is difficult.”
Police officers are also concerned about being exposed and bringing the virus into the station where their colleagues could be infected.
“The police station can be a very small environment at times in spite of all the precautions we are taking such as washing hands and wearing protective equipment,” he said.
Many police duties can be done over the phone, but because of confidentiality issues, there often needs to be face-to-face contact.
Raised in Swampscott, Ostrovitz attended Temple Israel. When he moved to Marblehead, he became a member of Temple Emanu-El where both his children attended Hebrew school. His late father, Marty Ostrovitz, was a greeter at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore and at the Lynch van Otterloo YMCA, both in Marblehead. His mother Nancy Ostrovitz managed Wades House of Favors in Vinnin Square for years and instilled in David a love for cooking.
“Every time we bring someone in is another opportunity for possible contagion,” said Ostrovitz, a 23-year veteran of the police force. “We have been able to amend most of what we do on the fly to keep it functioning. But we still have domestic violence and disorderly conduct despite everything that’s going on.”
“As shift commander, I have to book people, and that’s close contact. We are trying to be hyper-vigilant, trying to maintain distance. He described enforcing the closure of the town’s causeway to pedestrians and having to deal with a jogger who didn’t want his daily regimen disrupted.
“He was absolutely defiant and not willing to obey. The person eventually went home with a citation,” he said. “Everyone’s routine has been broken.”
When an arrest is unavoidable, police now ask a series of health-related questions to determine whether the person may have the virus. “Virus or no virus, we try to be compassionate,” said Ostrovitz, who added that there has been no shortage of personal protective equipment for Marblehead police.
He concedes that many people are getting fatigued with being quarantined, however, those who get into a routine, especially parents with young children, create a daily pattern and do well.
While the coronavirus pandemic is unique, Marblehead police are no strangers to health emergencies, such as hazardous materials or chemical or gas spills. “We have been through training and we’ve been on heightened awareness. We’ve handled these with similar precautions,” said Ostrovitz.