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Local police agencies suspend fingerprinting, pistol licenses as COVID-19 cases rise

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | November 17, 2020 1:00 AM

By CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE

Staff Writer

EPHRATA — With COVID-19 cases on the rise, law enforcement agencies across the Columbia Basin are suspending some operations.

Kyle Foreman, a spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, said the GCSO was suspending fingerprinting and processing of new applications for concealed pistol permits (CPL) until Dec. 14.

“If you are trying to renew your CPL, you can go online and get a form from our website, fill it in and mail it,” Foreman said.

The GCSO can still process pistol permit renewal applications by mail, but fingerprints are required for new ones, Foreman said.

On Monday, the Quincy Police Department announced it has also suspended its fingerprinting operations and is not processing new pistol permit applications, according to a Facebook posting Monday. The QPD will honor current pistol permit fingerprinting appointments, the announcement said.

Also, the Quincy Animal Shelter is not going to allow new animal adoptions, though appointments already made will be honored, the QPD said.

Quincy Police Chief Kieth Siebert said the QPD is also changing how its officers work in the field, in order to lessen the amount of contact they have with people.

“We’re not going on aid calls unless we’re requested by EMS or fire,” Siebert said. “We’re trying to keep folks in the community safe. Patrol will still be fully staffed.”

Othello Police Chief Phil Schenck said the Othello Police have also suspended fingerprinting and taking DNA samples “until further notice,” and the department is also instructing officers to do what they can to reduce unnecessary contact with the public.

“Officers are being directed to make contact outside of homes when possible,” Schenck wrote in an email to the Columbia Basin Herald.

Moses Lake Police Department Capt. Mike Williams said the MLPD has suspended both fingerprinting operations and new CPL applications, and it has also sent some of its clerical staff home to work remotely.

The MLPD, however, has not made any significant modifications to how its officers operate in the field.

“Not much has changed,” Williams said. “There’s not a heck of a lot we can do.”

Ephrata Police Chief Kurt Adkinson said the Ephrata Police Department’s offices remain closed. However, Ephrata residents apply to the GCSO for concealed pistol permits since the EPD does not have its own fingerprinting machine, Adkinson said.

As for the rest of it, Adkinson said the EPD is just watching and waiting.

“We’re playing it by ear,” he said.

All the agencies have closed or significantly limited access to their offices.

Foreman said sheriff’s deputies were also being encouraged to maintain social distancing with the public.

“We’re telling them to be as safe as they can,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.