10th LAPD employee dies from COVID-19 amid low vaccination rates, uneven mask use
A 10th employee of the Los Angeles Police Department has died from complications of COVID-19 amid rising coronavirus cases across the region and within the department.
The death of Officer Becky Strong and the increasing number of infections among the LAPD’s ranks come as the department struggles to persuade more officers to get vaccinated and as activists continue to call out examples of officers appearing to violate mask mandates and other COVID-19 protocols on the street — including when they interact with members of the public.
Strong, who joined the department in 1994, died Monday morning, the department announced. She had most recently been assigned to the South Traffic Division.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Officer Strong’s entire family, colleagues, and friends in this most difficult time,” the department said in a statement.
Strong’s death and the rising number of COVID-19 cases within the department were also noted by LAPD Chief Michel Moore before the civilian Police Commission during its meeting Tuesday morning.
L.A. will require city employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing for the virus.
Moore said Strong was “well known throughout the organization, well respected” and “a voice always of encouragement and support” for other officers.
Moore said the department saw 36 additional coronavirus cases among its personnel in the last week, up from 33 new cases the week prior. Before the contagious Delta variant began surging in L.A., cases among officers had dropped off almost entirely.
A total of 2,796 members of the department of more than 12,000 have now tested positive for the virus.
In addition to the 10 LAPD personnel who have died, three spouses of department personnel have died from COVID-19 complications, officials have said.
Police Commission President William Briggs on Tuesday offered the commission’s condolences to Strong’s family and colleagues. He also said Strong’s death “underscores why we must do everything possible within the department to ensure that those members that have yet to be vaccinated get vaccination.”
The LAPD has said that just over half of its personnel are vaccinated, despite broad access and promises from Moore that the department is doing everything it can to encourage participation.
Last week, the city announced that it would begin requiring city employees — including LAPD personnel — to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing to show that they have tested negative for the coronavirus.
Many details for how that plan would be rolled out remain unclear. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said city departments were expected to gather and report information about vaccination among their employees by Aug. 13.
Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission that the LAPD had 33 personnel test positive for the coronavirus in the last week, a sharp uptick over recent weeks.
On Tuesday, Moore said that the citywide requirements were an “active subject” of discussion among the department, the union that represents officers and the city’s personnel department, and that “rules and procedures” are “being formulated now.”
“This is a requirement that is coming our way,” he said. “It is meant to save lives.”
Multiple callers into the commission meeting castigated the department and Moore for not enforcing COVID-19 protocols, including requirements that officers wear masks.
Activists have been calling out examples of officers not wearing masks throughout the pandemic and the department for not handing down serious punishments to officers found to have violated masking policies.
Capt. Stacy Spell, a police spokesman, said this week that, since the start of the pandemic, 55 officers have received formal notices, counseling or training for failing to wear a mask when required, while nine others have participated in an “alternate complaint resolution” process.
He said an additional 93 complaints about officers not wearing masks have been received by the department and remain under investigation.
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