A photo on page 2 of this newspaper in normal times would be a portrait of a pleasant summer day: four police officers standing together, apparently enjoying a quiet moment, all wearing sunglasses. The caption could have come from an old Timbuk3 song: "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades."
But these aren't normal times, and what was more glaring than the afternoon sun was that the four officers were not wearing a more-important piece of protective equipment: masks.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman late last month wrote Police Commissioner Dermot
Shea that he'd gotten "numerous complaints" from constituents about cops
without masks, and had frequently observed them himself ignoring what is
supposed to be a standard safety precaution. He urged him "to enforce the
face-covering mandate within your ranks to both set a good example for New
Yorkers and protect public health."
Mr. Shea responded that the department already was enforcing the mandate,
saying, "We make sure they put them on. Whether it's police officers or
anyone else, we have to be smart, we've got to take care of each other."
That was emphatically driven home when it was revealed Oct. 2 that the man
endorsed for re-election by the officers' union, who often scoffed in the
past about the need for masks, tested positive for the coronavirus, along
with his wife. It was a reminder that this is a disease that makes no
allowances for power, position or access to the best health care.
Younger cops are likely to be less-vulnerable to the worst effects of the
disease, particularly if they're in good physical shape. Yet NYPD officers
in their 40s are among the 46 members of the department, including
civilians, who have died from the virus, and more than 5,000 officers at
one point tested positive for it during the spring.
One officer we know who's in his early 30s, after being cleared to return
to work after a bout with the virus at a point when he was scheduled to
have the next two weeks off, was told by a family member, "By that time,
you should be back to 100 percent."
His response was, "It'll be another two months before I'm 100 percent."
That sobering realization by a cop who looked to be the picture of health
should be considered by officers even as they rely on there being less
chance of the virus being spread outdoors. They may believe some of those
criticizing them don't have their best interests at heart.
But for their own sakes, as well as those with whom they come into contact,
they should be erring on the side of caution. In the light of recent
events, they shouldn't need to be told to put the masks on in public.
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