The Panola County Sheriff’s Office is making a few temporary changes to help safeguard the public and their staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officers will now take reports for certain non-emergency calls over the phone, such as those that do not require any on-scene investigation or evidence collection.

“We feel that because our officers interact with many people throughout the day, limiting as much exposure as possible will aid in contributing to our social distancing responsibility to the public and will limit the potential spread of the virus to both our officers and to you, the public,” Sheriff Kevin Lake said.

Officers will continue with normal patrols throughout the county and continue to respond to in-progress crimes or emergencies when there’s an immediate threat to life, health or property, Lake said.

“If we respond to your call in person, you could be asked to step outside to speak to officer/s in order to limit indoor contact,” Lake said. “Officers who have to make in-person visits will keep a ‘safe distance’ and refrain from shaking hands.”

The Sheriff’s Office lobby will remain open, but public access to the building will be limited. Anyone entering the lobby needs to use the intercom to speak to an officer or dispatcher. Lake said they are taking extra measures to clean and sanitize their facilities throughout the day.

The detention center currently has a strict no visitor policy. For example, no inmate visitation or community volunteer-led church services will be allowed. In addition, they will not be allowing the intake of property or personal hygiene items to house inmates from the public. Lake said they already provide needed personal hygiene items. Everyone who does enter the facility will be screened and medically cleared before they can enter.

“Thank you for your patience and for understanding these temporary officer contact policies as we do our best to limit exposure to this very contagious illness,” Lake said. “Join us in praying for this crises to soon be over, and may God bless you and your family.”