April 11, 2020


9/11 and the COVID Crisis, As Seen by an Officer Who Survived Both

Dear PERF members,

The other day, I got a call from a reporter who asked, “How is officer morale in the midst of this COVID crisis?”

And the reporter was surprised when I said that for the most part, police officers’ morale is pretty good.

Why? Because this is what police officers signed up for. When they became cops, they knew that a day would come like this, when they would be asked to step up, and the day has come.

Whether it’s a hurricane or a terrorist attack or a pandemic, working cops walk into the face of danger. They rise to the occasion, and they don’t ask for any special attention about it.

And ultimately, this is what makes police officers, and other professions like doctors and nurses, different: What they do makes a difference. Not every job is like that.

Recently I heard that an officer I knew had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus – NYPD Detective Steven Stefanakos. Steve has been with the New York City Police Department for 29 years, almost entirely with the Emergency Service Unit, which responds to many of the toughest calls and situations in policing.

I first got to know Steve in 2015, when PERF spent time at the ESU learning about their de-escalation and tactical skills, which we incorporated in PERF’s use-of-force guidelines and ICAT training.

Steve speaks modestly. He’s what police chiefs call “a working cop.” Like others in the ESU and the entire department, he’s been involved in countless rescues and has saved lives with his communication skills, helping people in crisis.

So I called Steve to find out how he’s doing, and was glad to hear that he’s fully recovered from the COVID-19 virus and is back on the job. Here’s a photo of him on his first day back at the ESU:


The COVID crisis isn’t the first time Steve has had a brush with mortality; he responded to the 9/11 attacks and was near the towers, being given his assignment, when they fell. Many of his colleagues and friends, with whom he had been speaking only minutes before, did not survive.

A lot of people have been comparing the COVID crisis to the 9/11 attacks, and it occurred to me that Steve has survived both, so I asked him how he felt about that. He said something that’s really great:

“We’ve actually talked about this quite a bit at work.

“What’s going on now with COVID, it’s the health profession’s 9/11.

“This is about the doctors, the nurses, the physicians’ assistants who are facing danger themselves every day, in order to save patients’ lives.

“And we in policing have to support them however we can, just as New York City and the world supported us on September 11, 2001.”

I asked Steve what his plans are now, whether he’s thinking about retirement yet, or maybe taking some time off when COVID-19 is over.

“No,” he told me, “I want to retire on April 10, 2030, which is the 100th anniversary of the ESU. I’ll be 62 then, and NYPD has mandatory retirement at age 63, so God willing, that’s a milestone that I want to make.”

I’m grateful to Steve for sharing his perspective with me. He’s a great example of our police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, doctors, nurses, and others who are continuing to do their jobs under extreme circumstances.

No matter how bad things get, they never think of quitting. They still want to report for duty, doing their everyday jobs. Their heroic everyday jobs.

And once again, thanks to all our PERF members who are sending us information every day that we include in our Daily COVID-19 Reports. The PERF Weekend Clips are below.




Weekend Clips

Nashville Tennessean: COVID-19 leads to 'hyper-acceleration' of some criminal justice reforms in Tennessee

Criminal justice reform advocates fought for years to shrink jail rosters, route cases away from incarceration and ease restrictions keeping people in prison after they've earned the chance to get out.

Those efforts have hit logjams of skeptical law enforcement and intransigent political forces. Even under Gov. Bill Lee, who made criminal justice reform a top priority, progress has been piecemeal.

But the coronavirus has upended familiar dynamics. The demand to mitigate the risk of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in overcrowded jails and prisons has reframed reforms as a matter of life and death — for inmates and correction officers alike.

The sudden shift could become a foothold for advocates, one they hope could last beyond the crisis.


Sky News: Coronavirus: Cyber criminals threaten to hold hospitals to ransom - Interpol

As hospitals around the world struggle to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients, cyber criminals are threatening to exploit the crisis and hold them to ransom, according to an Interpol warning.

The agency has issued a global alert to healthcare organisations about ransomware attacks, in which criminals lock organisations out of their own computer systems until a ransom is paid.

It follows a rare warning from one of the UK's intelligence agencies about criminals using the coronavirus outbreak to launch online attacks.


Chicago Tribune: How fingerprinting made Chicago famous: New technology led to 1910 murder conviction in a first for the nation

In recent months, the public has read a series of astonishing — and also disquieting — stories about a relatively new forensic technology, the use of genetic databases to solve crimes. A hundred years ago, the amazing and troubling police technology of the time was fingerprinting — and its drama first played out here in Chicago.

In 1909, fingerprinting was new and fascinating to Chicagoans. In a Tribune profile, Edward Evans, an identification expert in the Police Department’s Bureau of Identification, demonstrated the technique.


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