On a crisp, sunny autumn morning, the NYPD took time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan to publicly remember 46 members of the department who died during the coronavirus pandemic.
With the department’s ceremonial unit arrayed on the steps of the cathedral on Fifth Avenue on Monday, Lt. Jamel Hodges, commander of the unit, read out the names of nearly four dozen victims of the pandemic.
Among those who died were custodians, traffic agents, communications specialists and auxiliary cops, as well as police officers, detectives and Chief William Morris, the highest ranking of the victims. Morris had been head of the NYPD transportation bureau when he was stricken and died in June.
The five-minute ceremony ended with four NYPD buglers playing the hymn "Nearer My God To Thee."
"The NYPD will never forget," said Hodges as members of the department, including Commissioner Dermot Shea and members of his executive staff, prepared to enter St. Patrick’s to attend a private Mass presided over by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
During the pandemic's initial surge in the city in the spring, the NYPD said as much as 20% of the approximately 36,000 uniformed force called in sick, including those directly or indirectly affected by the virus. Over 1,800 cops tested positive overall for COVID-19, officials said.
Politicians and others have complained about officers not wearing face masks in public, but the NYPD last week said officers who didn’t comply with the mask rule would face possible discipline.
No officer has been disciplined "yet" for failing to wear a mask, according to mayoral spokeswoman Julia Arredondo, fulfilling a promise last week by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio himself to disclose the information.
For months, NYPD officers have been shown in viral photos and videos indoors and outdoors flouting the masking rule. There is even a Twitter account, @nypdmaskwatch, showing hundreds of violations.
But from now on, Arredondo said, "any documented noncompliance will result in investigation and discipline if substantiated."
With Matthew Chayes