Police officers, firefighters not to be forgotten

Hospital personnel such as nurses and doctors, ambulance crews and other full-time health care professionals are viewed by many Americans as the front-line heroines and heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent episode reminds us that first responders such as police officers and firefighters are risking their own safety to be there for us, too.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot plunged headfirst into hot water in March, in a telephone conversation reported last week by the New York Post. She was talking with city police Chief Terence Monahan, about protective face masks his officers had been supposed to receive.

Police had been promised 500,000 masks. When they showed up at a New Jersey warehouse to get them, they were told the department would receive just 50,000 masks. That would not have gone far to protect the more than 36,000 NYPD officers.

Monahan called to complain. The full conversation has not been released, but at one point, Barbot allegedly told the chief, “I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comment, that Barbot’s words were “a real inappropriate statement,” is an understatement. The mayor is looking into the matter.

For their parts, Barbot and Monahan are not commenting beyond an NYPD news release. It stated Barbot’s apology had been accepted.

No doubt what Barbot said is not the most inappropriate, not to mention stupid, thing said by a public official during the epidemic. The crisis has frayed many tempers.

But for the record, let it be noted the American people — and, we feel certain, the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers — care deeply about first responders including law enforcement personnel.

They, too, are taking great risks during the COVID-19 crisis. At last report, 31 NYPD officers had succumbed to the disease, as have at least 41 other officers and deputies in several states.

News reports during the past several weeks have featured photographs, stories and video of police officers and firefighters singing to and saluting hospital personnel.

Someone should salute them, too.


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