NY state, upstate police could fill in as COVID-19 sweeps through NYPD
City and state officials said officers from upstate communities and state agencies can fill in if the sick rate within the NYPD endangers public safety
Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Nearly one out of every five NYPD officers was out sick Wednesday, while government officials say the peak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is still between one and three weeks away.
If the sick rate within the department reaches a point that endangers the safety of residents, state police and officers from upstate communities could serve as reinforcements, city and state officials said Wednesday.
“If NYPD (employees) are getting sick...the backfill will come from state police,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his daily press conference.
State police already have jurisdiction in New York City, while officers serving communities upstate could be deputized, however, “the NYPD is so large, I don’t know that we get to that point,” Cuomo said.
Responding to a similar question in a CNN interview Wednesday morning, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said joint task forces and routine exercises involving members of both the NYPD and state police would help make for a smooth transition, if it were to happen.
First, however, another option could be 12 hour shifts, or having detectives replace patrol officers out sick, sources have told the Advance/Silive.com.
Some officers have already been reassigned, and as he welcomed a group of officers to their new beats, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the cops were needed particularly in some Manhattan precincts where about 30% are out sick.
“So we want to make sure there’s cars to respond if something happens,” Monahan said, according to a video recording. “We need to make sure we’re getting there, to respond, to help one another out.”
“We are scrambling, but that shouldn’t have a negative connotation," Shea said on CNN. "We are able to handle many, many different tasks here. We’re still fighting crime.”
A positive sign, he said, is that some officers that tested positive for coronavirus have since returned to work.
On Wednesday it was reported that 1,218 officers had tested positive for coronavirus.
A lack of available tests for officers who have come into contact with infected colleagues has been a concern among some Staten Island officers for weeks, according to law enforcement sources.
According to a statement Wednesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 25% of people with the coronavirus may never show symptoms.
Responding to a question Wednesday about New Yorkers ignoring social distancing guidelines, Cuomo said the NYPD “has to get more aggressive."
The city earlier this week announced officers could issue fines of $250 to $500 to people at public gatherings who refuse to disperse when ordered. Every day police visit thousands of public places across the city to report if they’re open or closed, and potentially issue fines.
An NYPD squad car was seen recently in New Dorp, slowly patrolling the parking lot of the Stop and Shop supermarket with a pre-recorded message on loop through a loudspeaker, instructing residents to practice social distancing.
“It’s a whole new world,” said a Staten Island officer recently, based just on what he’s seen on the borough’s East Shore. Including, but not limited to, the social distancing patrols, mask shortages and a military presence at the city’s first drive-through coronavirus testing center.
For two consecutive weeks in March, the crime rate in New York City has fallen dramatically, which should come as some relief for the NYPD.
In terms of shielding themselves from the virus, 400,000 pieces of personal protective equipment are being distributed this week, purchased by the NYPD and the New York City Police Foundation.
That’s in addition to more than 260,000 pairs of gloves and 550,000 masks already distributed by the NYPD’s Quartermaster Section, which focuses on distributing supplies and equipment throughout the department.
Health experts have said recently that first responders, and anyone else for that matter, who recover from a coronavirus infection probably will not catch it again, at least in the short term. However, it’s still unclear how long that immunity will last.
In a message of advice Wednesday to police departments across the country bracing for similar challenges in the weeks and months ahead, Shea said, “Start taking steps now to be in a better position.”
Cops, EMTs, nurses and more -- are under incredible strain. We're all battling through shortages of protective gear as our colleagues fall ill by the thousands. But lives are being saved because we're doing what we always do: WORK TOGETHER. pic.twitter.com/1RzFJTmWYM— NYC PBA (@NYCPBA) April 1, 2020