The New York City Police Department has reached a critical point. The Covid-19 scourge has eroded the ranks of a noble department that weathered the Civil War, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the stock market crash in 1929, World Wars I and II and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
In a department of about 36,000 sworn officers, 7,096 — or 19.6% of the uniformed workforce — were out sick on Friday, according to data issued by the NYPD. Some 2,314 uniformed members and 453 civilian employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and 19 employees have lost their lives as a result of the virus.
The NYPD suffered an incomprehensible 23 losses on 9/11 (hundreds more died in subsequent years from 9/11-related illnesses). It’s devastating to think that the casualties from Covid-19 may soon eclipse this.
Despite the mounting crisis in New York City, we rely on the NYPD to continue to show up on the front lines. It is difficult to consider a more vital resource in American life than our police, who work hard to enforce the law and ensure our safety.
Although crime is down now beause of the state of emergency, crime in New York City was on the rise in the first three months of 2020. Now that New York City is the epicenter of the pandemic, police are under unprecedented pressure.
In the three weeks after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency on March 12, reports of commercial business burglaries increased by 75% across all boroughs, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cash businesses such as supermarkets, bodegas and liquor stores have also been targeted.
The lockdown in New York City has also presented new challenges for the now-shorthanded department, which has to grapple with additional responsibilities that include enforcing social distancing. Crime trends have also shifted, with upticks in domestic violence connected to widespread orders to stay at home.
Meanwhile, coronavirus-related fraud schemes have surged, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
As if the NYPD didn’t have enough to worry about, a police officer was sucker-punched from behind while his partner was apprehending a robbery suspect in the Bronx on Tuesday. A bystander filmed the brazen assault and captured members of the crowd cheering while the alleged assailant fled on foot before he was chased down and arrested.
The video, which reminded me of last summer’s water-dousing incidents, is just one example of what our cops endure for the sake of keeping the rest of us safe. Virulent and corrosive anti-police rhetoric, along with New York’s bail reform laws, and the release of inmates — some who have already reoffended — all cause additional concerns for the NYPD.
And yet, as more police officers continue to fall ill, the remaining members of the NYPD — like police in agencies across the nation — continue to uphold their sworn oath to protect and serve.
Already, more than 600 members of the NYPD who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have recovered and been cleared to return to work. This ensures that New York City, with all its warts, continues to remain one of the safest big cities in America.
Make no mistake — the world is at war with the coronavirus. But instead of placing our trust and hope in the courageous Allied troops who stormed beaches in World War II, we now rely on our frontline health care professionals and public safety officers, who deserve our enduring admiration.
They are understaffed and underappreciated, and in many cases, dangerously exposed to the virus without adequate protective equipment.
As Winston Churchill famously stated in a speech before the House of Commons on August 20, 1940: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
God bless the NYPD.