Monday, March 30, 2020

Cops Fearful of Catching Coronavirus

By Ralph Cipriano

On March 17th,  a line of people down the block was waiting outside the Police Department's Gun Permits Unit.

At a time when the police commissioner had imposed a temporary moratorium on making arrests, some Philadelphia residents were seeking extra protection from criminals.

But most of the people standing in line outside the office at 660 E. Erie Avenue were out of luck. Just the day before, Mayor Jim Kenney had ordered all nonessential businesses and government offices to shut down. So on March 17th, only a handful of people got their gun permits before the unit shut down. Most of the people standing in line were turned away and wound up going home angry.

In the days before the unit shut down, some of the 15 cops and detectives who work there had raised concerns about the danger posed by the sheer volume of gun permit applicants, which on some days numbered as many as 300. "We shouldn't even be opening up," one cop who preferred to stay anonymous told the unit's commanding officer. But according to that cop, the lieutenant who ran the Gun Permits Unit told the troops that the show had to go on. Until the mayor ordered the shut down.

"She openly threatened us," the cop recalled about the boss. According to the cop, the lieutenant basically said, "If you guys don't open, I'm going to send you out to the districts. There's nothing I can do to save you."

The Gun Permits Unit is now closed to the public. And as of this morning, many of the cops and detectives who used to work there have been "detailed out" to work at various police districts around the city.

They're all packing face masks and have been told to keep a safe distance from people.

But some of those cops, especially the ones with preexisting conditions, are now concerned about working in offices where cops have already tested positive for the virus.

"Well I'm afraid I'm being sent to a district that already had cases," said the cop who wanted to stay anonymous. "I don't know what's gonna happen."

A spokesperson for the Kenney administration said that all city departments are "following protocols . . . consistent with guidance from the CDC and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health."

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the district attorney's office is doing things differently. Most of the 30 or so Philadelphia Police Department cops and detectives assigned to the D.A.'s office are still showing up for work.

Inside the D.A.'s office, people are still concerned about catching the virus, especially since one staffer tested positive. According to one source, the D.A.'s chief of staff, Arun Prabakaran, who was in a room with the staffer who tested positive, is still showing up for work.

And, according to that source, another cop in the D.A.'s office who tested positive for the virus is in the hospital. But, the source said, the D.A.'s office has not notified other employees that they may have been exposed to the two employees who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the D.A.'s office, as is her usual practice, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did D.A. Larry Krasner nor Chief of Staff Prabakaran.

Roosevelt Poplar, vice president for FOP Lodge No. 5, said the union doesn't have any numbers yet on how many cops in city are under self-quarantine, or have tested positive for the virus.

"One is bad enough," Poplar said about any known cases of cops who have tested postiive. "We've gotten several phone calls from different officers around the city who are self-quarantining," he said, as well as calls from officers who have tested positive for the virus.

"I don't have any numbers," Poplar said, but "it's not the worst case scenario for us."


Regarding the D.A.'s office, "they do things differently there," Poplar said. but people are still getting arrested, and so cops and detectives are still needed there to process paperwork for the arrests.

Some officers in the D.A.'s office have "been detailed back to the city," Poplar said. That's because of "so many officers" being out of work, either due to having tested positive for the virus, or they are under self-quarantine.

But if someone in the D.A.'s office has already tested positive for the virus, Poplar said, "It's the responsibility of the D.A.'s office to notify the people that they've been in close contact with."

Besides being worried about the virus, cops are also concerned about money. Originally, all of the members of the nation's fourth largest police department with more than 6,000 sworn officers were supposed to be collecting overtime during the coronavirus crisis.

But that deal only lasted for two weeks and expired at midnight on Sunday, March 24th. The FOP is in the process of negotiating a one-year contract extension that calls for a raise of 2.5 percent, Poplar said.

A spokesperson for the Kenney administration subsequently wrote in an email that the mayor has announced a one-year extension of the existing police contract, effective May 1st.

Ralph Cipriano can be reached at


  1. Hey LT. I'm going to send u all out to Districts or certain cops are exempt???? Hmmmmmm

  2. Who from the DA Office were detailed back? Because of the shutdown? I beg to differ!


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