New York, NY – Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed Tuesday that five members of the NYPD have now lost their lives to the COVID-19 coronavirus — all within a single week. Numerous other members are out sick.
Dennis Dickson, a 14-year veteran and custodian at 1 Police Plaza, became the NYPD’s first reported coronavirus-related fatality when he died at Kings Hospital in Brooklyn on March 26.
“Mr. Dickson was a revered member of the custodial staff at Police Headquarters, once spending 17 days at the headquarters building during Super Storm Sandy assisting with emergency cleanup operations,” according to an NYPD statement. “Mr. Dickson was again on the front lines cleaning and disinfecting 1 Police Plaza so that our personnel could be here safely, allowing them to continue to serve the people of the City Of New York.”
The NYPD has also lost School Safety Agent Sabrina Jefferson, assigned to Patrol Borough Queens South School Safety (113 Precinct); Senior Police Administrative Aide Gwendolyn King, assigned to Police Service Area #3; Det. Cedric Dixon, who served in the 32nd Precinct in Harlem; and Giacomina Barr-Brown, an administrative assistant in the Bronx 49th Precinct Roll Call Office.
Despite the devastation to the ranks, Commissioner Shea is trying to remain upbeat.
“We have people coming back to work; we have people coming back to work after testing positive for COVID,” Shea said. “We have men and women stepping in to join the ranks and pick up where people are still dropping off.”
There are approximately 5,600 uniformed officers — or 15% of the police force on sick report. Roughly 1,200 members of the NYPD have tested positive for COVID-19. Seventeen have since finished their quarantine period and returned to work.
Efforts to reach the Police Benevolent Association [BPA] have been unsuccessful. The PBA did, however, tweet its support for legislation that would entitle full contractual line of duty death benefits and payments to the tragically deceased.
NYPD officers have visited 2,758 supermarkets, 7,943 bars and restaurants and 1,259 public spaces in an effort to enforce social distancing and quarantining. Their jobs could be made easier and safer if the general public followed the rules for quarantining, according to Shea
Not only do officers have to manage the pandemic, they also have to continue fighting crime and helping vulnerable communities to prevent the further spread of the virus, the commissioner said.
“If we have to, we will [issue] summons, but we don’t want to,” Shea said. “Not only are we enforcing social distancing, but we are still making gun arrests; we are still closing down homicides, and in our spare time, we are delivering babies.”
Detectives are also delivering groceries to the elderly so that seniors don’t have to leave their homes, according to Shea.
While the NYPD does have reserves of Personal Protective Equipment, it is also taking donations to purchase more.
Donations totally approximately $500,000 have been made to the New York City Police Foundation. Those funds are being used to purchase 150,000 gloves, 150,000 hand sanitizers and 150,000 masks.
“We are working with the Medical Division and the unions and outside people to boost up testing to be available for our police officers,” said Shea.
The commissioner has also contacted law enforcement unions and told them to submit line of duty paperwork.
“We are in the middle of an emergency, we are in the middle of a pandemic and it’s all hands on deck, but submit the paperwork if you think it’s appropriate,” said Shea. “Thank you for what you do and keep fighting. It’s always dark before it gets a little lighter. We are going to get through this.”