An NYPD officer wears a surgical mask while investigating a coronavirus incident. Photo: Robert Miller
The Big Apple’s largest police union has filed a complaint with the city saying the NYPD isn’t doing enough to protect cops from the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the union announced Friday.
The complaint, filed Monday with the New York State Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, alleges the NYPD has failed “to provide adequate protective equipment, including masks and gloves,” and some of the much-needed gear won’t be available until May, according to a copy of the complaint.
“We’re all petrified,” a police source admitted to The Post.
“We’re not sure what they are going to do when one officer gets sick and it spreads,” the source went on.
“They’ve just said wash your hands, take a bath but nothing really official. They haven’t given us any protective gear to deal with these calls.”
The NYPD has given insufficient “dust masks” to cops looking for protective gear instead of the Centers for Disease Control recommended N95 respirators — which were only doled out to select commands because of a “limited supply,” the complaint alleges.
A new shipment of the special respirators isn’t expected to be delivered until at least May, the complaint said.
“No matter how this pandemic progresses, New York City police officers will remain on the front lines and will continue to carry out our duties protecting New Yorkers. But we shouldn’t be forced to do so without adequate protection,” Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch railed in a statement.
“The NYPD has not done enough to ensure that all of our members have protective equipment such as masks and gloves, nor does it have adequate supplies of that equipment to weather a prolonged outbreak. That is why we are asking state health and safety regulators to step in and compel the NYPD to provide adequate protective equipment as required by law.”
Another police source told The Post they’ve received “no training, whatsoever” about what to do if they encounter an infected person, or someone suspected of being infected.
“A 10 minute training video would be helpful to explain how to respond to these calls, because people don’t know how viruses work,” the source said.
“We didn’t get any kind of equipment as far as masks or hand sanitizer goes. We have gloves available because we deal with prisoners. My delegate gave me one mask. How you going to be using a [single] mask day in and day out?” the source griped.
Cops, who are often the first to respond to 911 calls for sick people, are also lacking “adequate sanitizers and other cleaning supplies,” the complaint alleges.
On Feb. 26, the NYPD said at a news conference they’ve handed out “thousands upon thousands of gloves, masks and wipes” to city cops to prepare them for an outbreak before the virus even made it to New York.
In a response to the union’s complaint, Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Richard Esposito said the information on the department’s coronavirus preparation was old.
“We are prepared. We have material in the hands of everybody. We have more material coming in, and we’re actively negotiating with the other city agencies that control the flow of the material,” Esposito told reporters at a press conference.
“The members of the PBA are our NYPD cops and we care about them deeply,” an NYPD spokesperson added to the Post in a statement. “The PBA’s assertion that we failed to meet our obligation as an employer is empty rhetoric.”
During the press conference, Esposito also went through the department’s official policies regarding officer precautions and mask use throughout the crisis.
The surgical masks are to be placed on sick patients who are “exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19” while the N-95 “will protect against aerosolized bacteria,” Esposito said, adding the masks are to be used when needed, not during routine patrol functions.
In addition to the official policy, Commissioner Dermot Shea released a video to members of the NYPD restating parts of the policy and telling people how best to take care of themselves.
“His message is, ‘You can’t take care of the people in the city of New York if you don’t take care of yourself,'” Esposito said.
So far, the NYPD has distributed about 67,000 pairs of gloves, 26,000 surgical masks and have 331,000 more gloves and 60,000 more masks stocked in warehouses. They are in the process of getting and distributing 450,000 N95 masks and a quarter of a million more surgical masks.