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Emory Police: On call during uncertain times

By Mary Loftus | Emory Report | April 23, 2020

To recognize Emory’s health care workers, Officer Christian Theis, of the Emory Police Department, and Division Chief Jacob Klaus, of Emory Emergency Medical Services, organized a first-responder parade past Emory University Hospital on Clifton Road.

While there may be fewer people living and working on Emory’s campuses these days, the Emory Police Department is on the job.

Not only are its members still handling routine calls and crime reports, they are responding to events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including investigating “Zoom bombings,” organizing a parade in appreciation of health care workers and increasing support for Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown. 

“I am so proud of the EPD team. They have continued on through the crisis without skipping a beat, 24/7,” says Chief Rus Drew. “They’ve done a fantastic job of supporting each other, reaching out to proactively support other areas of the campus community and sharing expertise with our local public safety partners.”

And, Drew adds, with “fewer eyes and ears on campus to call EPD if there is a problem, officers have to be that much more vigilant in checking in and around buildings, so isolated essential staff will feel safe in their spaces.” 

Honoring health care workers

To recognize Emory’s health care workers, Officer Christian Theis, in EPD’s Office of Professional Standards, and Division Chief Jacob Klaus, of Emory Emergency Medical Services, organized a first-responder parade on the evening of Wednesday, April 15, to take place on Clifton Road.

Having officers at the Midtown and Atlanta campuses gave EPD a close-up view of the preparation of the hospitals and the dedication of Emory’s health care workers, says Theis, who produces the agency’s safety programming and manages its social media platform.

“We were inspired by similar events in different cities and had been involved in #Solidarityat8 in Midtown,” he says. “So we started thinking about doing something for the Atlanta campus and reaching out to community partners.” 

More participants turned out than they imagined, 90 to 100 units in all, including AMR ambulances; Emory Police and EMS; DeKalb County Police and Sheriff’s Office; Decatur Fire; Federal Protective Services, who work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; SWAT and K9 units, and several police chiefs and sheriffs. 

“These are unprecedented and challenging times for us all, but I'm especially inspired by the nurses, doctors, researchers and other hospital workers who continue to put themselves at risk every day to help others,” Klaus says. “No parade could ever really capture how much we appreciate their sacrifices.” 

The day of the parade, Theis was directing traffic at an intersection. “Seeing the health care workers’ reactions firsthand on the street made it worth it,” he says. “Fox 5 showed up. Bystanders just driving by pulled their cars over and pulled out their phones to record it. Everyone was so cooperative, so appreciative. We all fell in line and were the caboose of the parade. It was fun.” 

Theis posted parade photos and videos on EPD’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and received many favorable comments. “A patient in the hospital tagged the parade in their IG with a view from their room,” he says. “All of the reactions were awesome. That’s definitely why we did it.” 

Online intruder alerts 

“Zoom bombing,” a relatively new phenomenon, is when uninvited strangers join a Zoom session and cause a disruption. With video-conferencing now widely used for conducting classes, meetings and seminars, EPD has investigated several such cases at Emory since early April, says Lt. Thomas Manns. 

“There are a couple of ways subjects can get into a meeting,” says Manns. “The host can post their link via social media, or because the Zoom ID link is like a telephone number, the subject(s) can scan for active numbers to enter a Zoom session.”

There is no specific law that addresses Zoom bombing, although what the intruder(s) do while they are in the session could constitute a crime. There is also the question of jurisdiction. If an Emory professor is teaching a class via Zoom, and the professor is in Cobb County, EPD would have to work with the local agency for that investigation.

“These intruders pop into active meetings, talking over the speaker or taking control of the screen. Sometimes they share explicit photos or making racially charged remarks,” says Detective Karimah Fanning, of EPD’s Investigation Unit. “In some of our cases, they have interrupted meetings by talking over the speaker or making remarks in the chat room.” 

In addition to investigating Zoom bombing cases, EPD has compiled tips to help Zoom users avoid the issue here.