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NYPD has been devastated by the coronavirus. Can LAPD avoid that fate?

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LAPD officers stand guard inside the 7th St/Metro Center subway station downtown.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

As the coronavirus ravages New York, its Police Department has been hard hit.

More than 800 officers there have tested positive for the virus, and more than 4,700 officers — about 12% of the force — have been calling in sick daily. Five NYPD employees have died, and John Miller, chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism, is among those who have been hospitalized. In each case in which an officer has tested positive, those who work alongside the individual have been forced to self-quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Los Angeles Police Department officials are now trying to avoid a similar fate. Here is what we know:

Q: How bad is coronavirus at the LAPD?

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The LAPD continues to test more of its 13,000 employees, and 26 have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. Four are department leaders.

But some officers expressed frustration with commanders in the LAPD’s Central Division after, sources told the Los Angeles Times, an officer who later tested positive was exhibiting symptoms at work for two days before being sent home. The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was “coughing and sweating” during roll call in Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., sources said.

The officer, according to the LAPD, was sent home once supervisors became aware of his illness. According to the sources, six officers in Central, however, have since tested positive for the virus.

The source of the infection isn’t known for sure.

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Q: What is the LAPD doing?

The LAPD is now taking the temperatures of its officers as they arrive for their shifts to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus inside the department.

Anyone with a temperature will be sent home immediately and directed to get medical treatment. “We are taking every step to ensure officers’ health,” Assistant Chief Horace Frank said.

Department roll calls are now conducted with officers spaced far apart to ensure social distancing as part of efforts to get as many officers as possible working. Those with even slight signs of illness have been ordered to stay home, Frank said.

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Workspaces are now frequently sanitized, and officers are equipped with N-95 masks and gloves and goggles to use in the field if needed.

Q: Are there scenarios if coronavirus spreads at the department?

Police Chief Michel Moore and his commanders have planned out scenarios in which up to 30% and perhaps even half the department calls in sick. These are worst-case scenarios, and officials do not think it will get that bad.

Officers in many locations this week began switching to 12-hour shifts to bolster the number on patrol and to provide security at eight homeless shelters. The department has already transferred hundreds of detectives to patrol functions.

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Moore said that in the last few weeks the department had entirely mobilized. Vacation days have been canceled, unnecessary assignments and operations have been put aside, and everyone has been assigned to concentrate on essential public safety functions.


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