NYPD and the COVID-19 Crisis

Here’s a glimpse of what is happening in our nation’s largest police department. Needless to say, many important functions like in-service training and organizational improvement measures quickly fall. When survival is the dominant issue, things change and change quickly.

The following is from PERF’s COVID-19 Daily Report.

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Yesterday PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler spoke with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea about what has changed in New York City since he was last featured in the Daily COVID-19 Report on March 26th. Excerpts of the conversation are below, and you can listen to the entire conversation at this link.

On the 27 members of the department they’ve lost (click here to view the department’s memorial video):

“We’ve lost six sworn on the uniformed side – five detectives and a police officer. We’ve lost five auxillary officers. … Then we have 16 civilian members of the department, from cleaners to traffic agents to school safety officers … to three 9-1-1 operators. It really is a cross-section.”

On the most recent auxiliary officer they lost:

“You have to show up to work to be in the (auxiliary) program. We count your hours, and that goes towards whether you get promotions and you stay an auxiliary officer. Again, these are not paid people. They’re people that are just donating because they want to do the right thing in their communities. When you added up how much this guy showed up to work, he basically worked more than some of our police officers, in terms of hours. He essentially worked a full job and then some amount of hours. It’s just an incredible story within a terrible story.”

On the number of officers out sick:

“I definitely think that we’ve hit the plateau and are coming down, but it’s a slow journey down. We peaked at 7,155 uniformed members sick. We’re about a little over 6,000 right now. So it’s not like it’s dropping (with) 700 a day coming back to work. Still people are going out sick with this. Thankfully at this point we’ve had six days in a row, I think, of people coming back to work in greater numbers than are going out sick. So the number overall is coming down. But it’s not coming down fast. It’s coming down slowly.”

On reopening the city:

“Whether it’s the president, the governor, the mayor, other governors – (they have) different styles, different messages, but I do think that everyone, for the most part, wants the same thing. They may not always agree on how they say it or how to go about it, but it’s about getting back to normal, probably in stages, but as safely as possible. … I do like the analogy that Governor Cuomo uses, where you bleed off pressure. You open up the valve. But you better be ready to measure, and have reliable data, and trust what the data means, in terms of, ‘Is the infection coming back? Is it spreading? Is there a spike in hospital visits?’ And you don’t want to go too far too soon.”

On how his upbringing helped prepare him for this crisis:

“When I was sworn in, I took the time to write my speech. I talked about my parents and the values that they taught us and how much we learned from them (about) how to treat people, how to view the world. It’s not so much about the geography or the living arrangements, it’s about faith. It’s about how to treat people. And I think everything else you can learn and you can figure out along the way. At times like this you fall back upon the values that were bestowed upon you and taught to you from an early age.

On his approach to leading the agency through this pandemic:

“You don’t have to have all the answers. But you have to be true to yourself. You have to be respected, I think. You have to make decisions. And you have to make the hard calls. You do the best you can. Different styles of leadership, I don’t know that there’s any one. My particular (style) would be I like to trust but verify. I like to know what’s going on and if you need to address something, you address it. But I don’t like to suffocate people either. And in this agency, there’s an awful lot of moving parts. With 56,000 people, with all the interconnections with different agencies, different law enforcement partners offering to help. Keep your sight on moving forward, and keep your sight on the big picture. What’s really important to the city.”

Click here to listen to the entire conversation with Commissioner Shea.