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Coronavirus hits U.S. police forces amid protective gear shortages

Video credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on March 31, 2020 - Duration: 01:55s

Coronavirus hits U.S. police forces amid protective gear shortages

Major U.S. police departments, from New York to Philadelphia and Detroit, are being forced to sideline officers as infections rise in the ranks, according to a Reuters survey.

This report produced by Zachary Goelman.

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Coronavirus hits U.S. police forces amid protective gear shortages

The nation’s largest police force this week reported that more than 800 uniformed NYPD cops and over 100 civilian workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Across the nation, cops are falling ill and calling out sick, forcing departments to try and balance protecting the public and protecting their officers.

A Reuters survey of the nation’s 20 largest U.S. police agencies conducted between March 25 and March 30 learned that departments are being forced to sideline cops as infections rise in the ranks.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DETROIT MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN, SAYING (MARCH 28): "Chief James Craig this morning tested positive for COVID-19." In Detroit, 598 employees of the city’s 2,200-member force have been quarantined after at least 69 officers tested positive - including the police chief.

The Philadelphia Police Department, the nation’s fourth-largest, has begun delaying arrests for certain non-violent offenders.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER DANIELLE OUTLAW, SAYING (MARCH 18): "This approach is designed first and foremost, to keep our officers and the communities we serve safe from COVID-19." Boston's mayor last week announced the opening of a coronavirus testing site specifically for first responders.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH, SAYING (MARCH 27): "It will serve as for qualified, EMTs, firefighters, and police officers only.

This is an important step to keeping our first responders safe and healthy and we have to do that." And in New York, police officers told Reuters they don't have sufficient protective gear when responding to 9-1-1 calls.

One officer with the city's 33rd precinct, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "we show up first, to everything, and we are completely unprotected.” An NYPD spokesperson told Reuters the department was responding to an unprecedented crisis, and has distributed more than 200,000 pairs of gloves, hundreds of thousands of protective masks, and hand sanitizer to employees.

The NYPD says four staff - including a detective, a school safety agent, and two civilian employees - died over the weekend after contracting COVID-19.

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