Faces of COVID-19: “We need to take advantage and not look at it as total negative.”

Wearing two hats as a leader within the Decatur Police Department and a family woman, Sgt. Kimberly Parks said being on the frontline of COVID-19 has been a challenge but also a “blessing.”

She makes concerted efforts to follow the department’s new safety protocols to ensure she doesn’t bring any potential exposure of the virus to her children and husband, who until recently has worked from home due to the virus.

“I’ve had to change the way I do everything. On days I do come into contact with someone I will shower before I go home. Most officers don’t go home in the clothes they had on,” she explained.

Her workday typically includes checking in with officers, reviewing reports and foot patrolling much of the downtown Decatur Square, which currently has a mask mandate along with the rest of the city.

In an effort to limit officers’ exposure to COVID-19, officers have shifted to responding and receiving information to many non-life-threatening calls—such as thefts and simple reports—via phone and other technology means.

With call volumes lower than normal, Parks said she has seen a level of calmness that has come over her colleagues, though she and others have the occasional apprehension of potential COVID-19 exposure while in the field.

When coronavirus began to become widespread early in the year, Parks recalled one team of police personnel had to be quarantined. She recalled being extremely sick herself in January or February before the virus really became widespread, leaving her out of work for more than a week.

“It went through the department early in the year [there were] so many people out sick,” she said. “The doctor said I had an infection and said it would run its course.”

In her time away from the frontline, she’s a mother turned “teacher” who has had to split shifts with her husband to help their five-year-old daughter through virtual learning.

“It’s a challenge because I didn’t sign up to be a teacher. So now I’m a teacher Monday, Tuesday and Friday,” she said. “It makes you appreciate the people who did sign up for it because now you see what your kids are capable of doing when they’re at school.”

Luckily, she has been able to opt into the COVID-19 paid family and medical leave, of which she is using one of four workdays each week to be home with her child. Though the Parks family may not visit a lake or pool as much as they had before, Parks said the COVID-19 pandemic has still been positive in other ways.

“It’s brought us closer because we have no choice,” she said. “We’ve had to be more creative with things we do as a family. We’ve played more games. We’ve done more crafty type things…spending real quality time together. I’ve looked at it as a real absolute blessing for my family.

“We need to take advantage and not look at it as total negative,” she said. “There’s some really great things that have happened to most of us with this, as far as being able reconnect with family and those you love.”

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