The Detectives’ Endowment Association, Inc. — Paul DiGiacomo, President

DEA President Speaks to Police Executive Research Forum

May 4, 2020

Police Unions Are Working to Help Protect Officers’ Health

Today’s COVID-19 Report presents information from police union leaders in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Chula Vista, CA.

Key Takeaways:

— Police unions have helped obtain and distribute personal protective equipment to officers in cities where the equipment was in short supply.

— Unions are working to ensure that deaths of officers from the coronavirus will be treated as line-of-duty deaths, so that the officers’ families will obtain benefits to help ensure their financial security.

— In some cities, union leaders and management are communicating more frequently during this crisis, which may lead to better working relationship in the future.

— Some police departments are shifting to one-officer patrol cars, because it is difficult or impossible to maintain social distancing with two officers in a car.

NYPD Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo:

We Have Lost 5 Detectives to COVID-19

It’s the darkest time for detectives in the history of the rank. We’ve lost five detectives. I call this the “invisible bullet,” because you’re here one day and gone the next.

The rank of detective in New York City is  unique. We have detectives working patrol, doing traditional investigations, in our Emergency Service Unit, flying helicopters, and guarding dignitaries. We cover all aspects of policing here in New York City.

The main issue for my detectives is possibly taking the virus home to their families. Quite a few of our detectives are not living at home to protect their families.

Regarding the detectives who died, to me this is no different than being shot in the line of duty. We expect the municipality to treat this as such by giving them a line-of-duty death designation that protects their families financially. The ages of the five detectives who died ranged from 40 to 50, and four of the five have young children. This union’s concern is to make sure that their families and children are secure financially, and we will be there for them today and forever.

I feel that the city and state failed us at the beginning of this by not having the personal protective equipment available for our members to go out and do their jobs. The union stepped in and bought large quantities of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and distributed it to our members. I don’t blame the police department. It’s not their responsibility to do that; it’s the government’s. The city should have had this equipment ready to go, and they did not. Now, weeks into this, they’ve finally figured it out and given out the equipment. The Detectives Endowment Association is still providing our members with equipment.

In the beginning stages, our detectives responding to DOAs [persons who had died of COVID-19 in their homes] did not have the proper equipment. We called the federal government and they sent over 4,000 Tyvek suits and face shields so that our detectives could do their investigations at DOAs, which have quadrupled during the coronavirus.

These investigations take a toll on you, both physically and mentally. You’re entering these locations knowing that it could be a coronavirus situation and you could take it home to your family. Behind every death there is a family. Our detectives were trying to console them and give them some sort of explanation and peace in their lives, as we’ve always done and always will do at any homicide or DOA.

Note: Click here to view a video from the Detectives’ Endowment Association about supporting the families of detectives who died from COVID-19.

More from the Police Executive Research Forum here.