A dangerous job has gotten even more dangerous


As Californians complete week five of a state-mandated stay-at-home order, it’s understandable that frustration and anxiety is running high. The public’s nerves are frayed, and everyone seems to be asking the same question:

How much longer will this last?

Now more than ever, at this critical time in the battle against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to maintain social distancing and to stay at home whenever possible. It’s also important to keep in mind the sacrifices the men and women of law enforcement are making every day to keep their communities safe.

Protecting yourself and others can be a matter of life and death.

We at the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association already have experienced the trauma and agony of losing two of our deputies to complication related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Terrell Young, 52, a Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy who worked in the county jails, died April 2. It is believed that he caught the virus from an inmate.

Deputy Terrell Young photo courtesy of Riverside Sheriffs’ Association

Later the same day, David Werksman, 51, a 22-year veteran of the department,  passed away. How he got COVID-19 still is unclear.

Deputy David Werksman. Photo courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Deputies know that when they sign up for this job, they put so much on the line to serve others. With the coronavirus pandemic, their jobs have become even more dangerous.

In addition to performing their work duties, many of our deputies have kids out of school, which puts them at a greater risk of coming home and unknowingly infecting their children. That unimaginable but, unfortunately, not remote scenario is adding additional stress to our rank-and-file deputies.

As of last Friday, April 17, a total of 107 inmates in Riverside County jails have tested positive for the coronavirus and have been put in quarantine. Of those, 53 have recovered and are back in general housing. All inmates wear masks and are encouraged to practice safe social distancing. Our maintenance staff cleans our jails several times a day.

A total of 71 Riverside County Sheriff’s Department staff members had also tested positive by then for COVID-19. Nine have returned to work after recovering. Most of the infected employees work in the Corrections Division. Although there have been some deputies who work in our Patrol and Courts units and members of our professional staff in our Support Service Divisions who have tested positive for COVID-19, overall, our Patrol and Dispatch units are doing OK. Several employees will be returning to work over the coming days as they recover from COVID-19.

The public should be proud of the way our teams have responded to this crisis. Many eagerly report to work despite the risk of catching this unforgiving disease, and several have volunteered for overtime positions in the same jail where a COVID-19 outbreak started.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is setting an example of community cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with doctors, nurses and other members of the health profession, as well as grocery store workers and other employees who continue to clock in at what have been deemed essential businesses, the men and women of the RCSD deserve the public’s recognition and support.

I, for one, could not be more proud of them.

Young is president of The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association

The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association is collecting donations to support the Young and Werksman families. Click here to donate.