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Members of the Metropolitan Police Department are being asked to contribute to a nationwide list of law enforcement officers who have died of COVID-19. In an email sent in recent days to police union members nationwide, Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, asked law enforcement officers nationwide to help the union track COVID-19 related deaths.
“We knew at the beginning of the pandemic that law enforcement officers on the front lines combating this pandemic would be increasingly vulnerable to contracting the virus,” Yoes writes. “As we had feared, the virus has claimed the lives of many, and now includes a growing number of law enforcement officers.”
The message asks officers to send an email with links to press reports or obituaries to the national FOP so it can keep an accurate count.
To date, one MPD officer, a sergeant, has died of COVID-19, says G.G. Neill, president of FOP Lodge 1. The lodge has in its membership some 10,000 law enforcement, including about 4,000 MPD officers. (The lodge also has in its membership about 6,000 other members of law enforcement in the District, including officers with the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Capitol Police, the National Zoo Police, D.C. Protective Services and other law enforcement agencies).
Initially, the death of the sergeant was reported to be unrelated to COVID-19. Neill says it was subsequently learned that the sergeant, who had underlying health conditions that make people more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, died of complications from COVID-19. According to Dustin Sternbeck, the director of MPD’s communications office, additional medical testing confirmed that the the MPD member did not die from the virus.
That death is not currently part of the national count of 72 COVID-19 deaths of law enforcement officers, Yoes says in an email, but it will be reviewed.
Overall, 60 MPD officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, Neill says. Sternbeck places the number of positive cases at 106 and says that 60 of the individuals who tested positive have recovered and returned to work.
The pandemic “makes the job more difficult,” Neill says. “Officers are worried about contracting the virus and bringing it home to their family.”
In addition to wearing protective gear when interacting with the public, officers must be vigilant about sanitizing the door handles and steering wheels of police cruisers, which are in use by different officers throughout the day and night, he notes.
This story has been updated with additional information from Dustin Sternbeck and MPD.