With more than half of the NYPD still unvaccinated against COVID-19, New York City’s police department will now require all cops to mask up or get the shot.
The new guidance orders members of the police force who have not submitted proof of full vaccination to wear a face covering at all times—regardless of whether they’re indoors or outside. Violators will receive unspecified “disciplinary action,” according to a department-wide memo sent out this week and first reported by the NY Post.
“As per Mayoral Executive Order 74, members of the service who wish to remove their face coverings in the workplace must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to the Medical Division,” a department spokesperson confirmed to WNYC/Gothamist on Thursday.
The memo also states that both vaccinated and unvaccinated officers must wear a face covering at all times when on duty inside schools, homeless shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, and the transit system. They may adjust their masks temporarily while eating or drinking or to address a breathing condition.
One officer told WNYC/Gothamist that he doubted the new policy would boost either mask or vaccination rates inside the police department. He noted that many senior NYPD officials have flouted mask rules throughout the pandemic, and in some cases have allegedly discouraged officers from wearing face coverings.
“It’s on all management and they aren’t wearing them so I doubt they’ll enforce anything,” said the officer, who asked for anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about the department. “Plus unless discipline is strictly defined, that could just mean: ‘I told him to put it on.’”
The mask mandate follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order last month requiring all city employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. But as the highly infectious delta variant spreads, the city’s efforts to ramp up inoculations of municipal workers have produced limited results. As of this week, 58% of city workers had received at least one shot, an increase of four percentage points in the last four weeks.
The rate is even lower among the 54,000 members of the city’s police department. According to an NYPD spokesperson, just 47% of uniformed and civilian employees had gotten the jab — an increase of 4% since last month, and just 6% since early June. At least 59 members of the NYPD have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The memo states that officers with the rank of sergeant and above will be responsible for enforcing the mask rules and will soon receive more information about handling employee vaccination status.
While the NYPD has long required officers to adhere to mask standards, they faced repeated criticism about their lack of compliance. In October of last year, the NYPD circulated a memo stating that officers who didn’t obey the mask guidelines would face disciplinary action.
It’s unclear if any officers have faced penalties, and the NYPD did not respond to inquiries.