Rafael Mangual interviewed NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea to discuss how recent legislative and policy shifts in New York present new challenges for police in America’s biggest city.
Audio for this episode is excerpted and edited from a Manhattan Institute eventcast, "The New Challenge of Policing New York." Find out more and register for future events by visiting our website, and subscribe to MI’s YouTube channel to view previous discussions.
Brian Anderson: Welcome back to the 10 Blocks podcast. This is Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal.
I’m joined right now by Rafael Mangual, he’s a contributing editor to the magazine and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. About two weeks ago, Ralf had the great opportunity to interview NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea about some of the policy shifts in the state and city of New York, that have impacted everything from pretrial detention, to enforcement tactics, and the prosecution of both minor and serious offenses. We’ll play a portion of their conversation on the podcast today.
Before we do that, we wanted to get some thoughts and reflections from Ralf—but first, let’s get through a few important announcements.
As some of our listeners might have noticed, the Manhattan Institute and City Journal have been hosting a ton of livestream discussions in place of our usual in-person events, which we've had to cancel because of the pandemic. Since we launched the series back in May, we’ve hosted a sitting state governor, a U.S. senator, and many, many other great guests on a variety of topics.
On Thursday of this week, that’s September 10, I’ll be interviewing Heather Mac Donald to talk about her recent work, and her experience with the new social-media speech codes, and other topics. Next Thursday, September 17, Ed Glaeser, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a professor at Harvard, and a longtime contributing editor at City Journal will be deliver his annual James Q. Wilson lecture, where he’ll address the broad implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on city life in America.
You can find all our events and register ahead of time by visiting the events section of the Manhattan Institute’s website.
And If you’d like to watch our past interviews, including the one you’ll be listening to on the podcast today, be sure to subscribe to the Manhattan Institute’s YouTube channel.
Ralf, is there something you'd like to say really to set the context for this interview with Commissioner Shea?
Rafael Mangual: Yeah, Brian, thanks. You know, when we first invited Commissioner Shea to do this event, it was before the pandemic had sort of taken effect and it was shortly after he was appointed. And right around that time, I had written a piece for the website about how he was taking office in a very different context from his predecessors in recent history. For a long time, there was a level of coherence within our criminal-justice system, such that the police department was seen as a natural partner to prosecutor's offices who were seen as a natural partner to the department of corrections. And it was, you know, sort of one system working toward a shared goal. I think that we're seeing a lot less of that now given so many of the criminal justice reforms that have been enacted. And I wrote basically that was going to need to adjust how Commissioner Shea did his job and how we sort of analyzed his success.
And so, you know, when he finally was able to do the event after things had calmed down, New York was really in the middle of what a lot of people had predicted as these reforms started to take effect, which was a pretty sustained crime wave. One that's been crowned by shootings and homicides that have jumped up across the city. But probably more so than anywhere else in the borough of Brooklyn where just this, this past Labor Day weekend, a six year old boy was wounded during the J'Ouvert celebrations. This took place in the 77th precinct which is covers crown Heights that precinct to seen, a murder increase of 114% year over year, shootings increase of 156%. AndI just had a piece for the website, kind of detailing how there really are kind of two distinct New Yorks. And I think Commissioner Shea's conversation did a really good job of sort of explaining what that's like and painting that picture. We sort of started off with his career in the Bronx and, and sort of took that through the present day and, and he was very candid and discussing the role that some of these reform efforts might be playing in driving crime and the need to find real balance.
Brian Anderson: Thanks, Ralf, it's a good setup for this very interesting interview with Commissioner Shea. Thanks again.
Rafael Mangual: I want to start by going back 30 years when New York City was in the middle of its bloodiest year ever, one that would end with 2262 murders. Now, that year 1990 also ended with robberies, burglaries, and grand larcenies all breaking six figures.
Our guest today, Commissioner Dermot Shea joined the NYPD just a few months later in April of 1991 when he was assigned to the 46 Precinct in The Bronx. Now, in 1990, the 46 saw 82 murders which for context is just two fewer than the 84 that occurred in the entire borough of The Bronx last year.
Now, what followed was a prodigious climb through the department's ranks, an impressive career whose upward trajectory was matched only by the impressive downward trajectory of the city's violent crime through 2019 which is when he was named the 44th commissioner of the New York City Police Department. Now, I'm a betting man. I'd confidently wager that those two trend lines are not unrelated which is why I'm so grateful that he agreed to share his perspective on such important issues with us all today.
I hope all of you at home will give us a warm virtual welcome to our guest of honor, Commissioner Shea. Thank you so much for being here.
Dermot Shea: Rafael, thank you. Thank you for having me. The honor is mine. I look forward to a spirited conversation today about something that I'm quite proud of and the work of the men and women of this department and New York City overall. I look forward to it.
Rafael Mangual: Well, fantastic. Let's jump right in. I led into your introduction by highlighting some of the crime numbers from the early 1990s in part because I think a lot of people have either forgotten what it was like back then or they just weren't around to see what the battle days were like.
I was hoping that you can start us off by just telling us a little bit about what The Bronx and the city more broadly was like when you first got onto the job and what are some of the kind of more notable similarities and differences that you think cops would be dealing with today?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. I came on in April of 1991. As you said, I got out of the police academy at the end of, I think it was October of 1991 and was stationed to the hybrid section of The Bronx. If you're familiar with The Bronx, it's a little bit north the Yankee Stadium there. It was an area one square mile. I think there was 90 murders in 1991 in that square mile. Yeah. It's unbelievable when you think about it in today's terms.
Rafael, there's really no comparison in terms of what the street looked like. It was just complete poverty. Burned out buildings were still quite frequent. Garbage piled up on the streets. It was a time when there was so much crime that I think there was as much crime as there was. There was probably just as much not reported because there was a feeling that reporting it didn't do anything.
Gunshots were common. Burned out cars were common. That's a tough place. When I think back now, it's the same as then. You would go to some jobs. You would just shake your head and say, "What a terrible situation that when you see good hard-working people and trying to raise a family in that environment and all the obstacles that they had."
When you look fast forward 20, 30 years later on what the city has turned into and the growth and still, obviously, we have pockets of problems an we still have poverty and a lot of issues, societal issues, but New York City has really just been turned around. We have our obstacles this year for sure. Hopefully, I'm not a bad luck charm, but it's been a tough year, but New Yorkers are resilient. We have a great police department, and we're going to get out of this. It's just a matter of, I think, taking care of some small things.
Things are always a little dark, but we need some thickness. We need to start getting the ship moving in the right direction, but we'll get that.
Rafael Mangual: Well, as you mentioned, we've really come an incredibly long way since the battle days of the 1990s. I grew up in Brooklyn in a neighborhood that's now quite gorgeous, but it wasn't so much when I was a young kid.
When we think about just how night and day the city's sort of 30-year trajectory has become, what would you say or that maybe the two or three most important tools or tactics that were utilized by not just the NYPD, but by the criminal justice system more broadly that help bring that change about and make life livable in so many more parts of the city for so many hard-working families?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. Well, on the policing side, I think I have a unique perspective because, for a number of years going back, I ran the CompStat. I saw both sides I used as a young lieutenant, I attended CompStat. It wasn't a fun place to be back in the... That was 1998, I think, was the first time I attended a CompStat. CompStat came in in roughly 1994, '95.
I attended first time in '98. Then years later, to be trusted by Bill Bratton and put in charge of running the CompStat. I came full circle. There's no comparison. I think that when I look back and you look at back when crime was so rampant in the early 90s, late 80s, early 90s because I grew up in Queens, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit in those early years.
I think the biggest change was the mindset of, yes, we can do something about this. I think that the police department led the way in many ways in taking an attitude of it doesn't have to be this way, we can do better. And over years then of taking affirmative steps and dealing with some of the smaller issues in crime and smaller issues then became parts of larger overall strategies that were put into place and, over the years, really transformed the streets. That's number one. It was the little things.
It was the mindset. It was that the feeling that the police can make a difference. You started to see then other partners in law enforcement. You started to see prosecutors. We didn't do it alone by any stretch of the imagination, but in those early years, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit.
I think fast forward 20, 25 years later when I started to run CompStat, it was a different [inaudible 00:07:47]. We needed different strategies. We started to use technology more. It was coming out of a period of different societal beliefs about mass incarceration, and we had to get a different mindset. I think that when you stand here today and look back, that's one of the frustrating things from my view that we have evolved over time as a police department in terms of changing.
Sometimes, we've made mistakes, but we've also recognized mistakes. We consider ourselves a reforming agency. We're having a great debate take place right now across the United States about law enforcement and policing in general. Many people are coming up to us and saying, "Well, you need to do things differently. You need to reform, and here's some things that you need to put into place.
When we look at that list of reforms that we have to do, we come back and say, "Well, we actually did that already." I think policing is a bit of an evolution. It's not something that you put a plan into place and carry out the plan. It's something that you have to be constantly evaluating because what works today may not work tomorrow.
In fact, I can guarantee it probably won't. The laws are changing, societal attitudes are changing. The environment around us is changing. We have to be just as nimble. I think you're seeing some of that right now. Different laws being passed, tools maybe being taken away, but you're not going to put your hands up in the air and say, "We can't do it anymore."
Just this morning at this desk, I shared a meeting with some great minds in the police department on, "Okay. What are we doing? What are we going to do to drive the violence back down?" We know we have a pretty significant spike of gang violence in parts of the city. We will adapt, and we'll continue to push it down.
Rafael Mangual: Yeah. I mean getting into that uptake, it's no sugar. This is on the minds of everyone. I'm sure that it's a major concern of our audience here watching live. Through August 15th, murders in the city are up 30%. Shootings are up 82%. This past June was apparently the worst on record since 1995 for that month.
Now, even if you look at the two-year increases, they seem to be right around the same. As you mentioned, a lot of that violence is concentrated in relatively small parts of the city and probably being committed by a relatively small cohort of bad actors, but I have a couple of questions here. One is, is it fair to say that what we're seeing now is more than just a blip?
If it is, what are the driving forces of that? You said you mentioned sharing a meeting, developing strategies about... Before you get to strategy, I think you have to identify the source of the problem. Does the department have a sense of what that might be?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. Boy, this is complicated, would be an understatement, Rafael. I think context is important here too . Yu brought out some of those numbers. In the early 90s, we had 2200 murders. We had 5000 shootings a year. At the peak, Rikers Island back then, I think, the peak was about 21,000 prisoners in Rikers Island. A lot of crime, in response to that, a lot of policies and incarceration. They drove down the crime certainly. Then, you fast forward decades literally. I took over. I came into this building in, geez, 2011 and '12. We were looking at shootings in the range of 12 to 1300 roughly a year, I think.
One of the things I'm probably most proud of is how we developed strategies in this new day and age to really use data, to identify who's doing the most crimes, taking CompStats to probably a new level with technology and data and putting systems in place and breaking down silos internally and sharing information to really identify patterns as quickly as possible, also to recognize that arrests are meaningless without meaningful prosecutions and ultimate outcomes because we don't want to make 10 arrests of the same individual.
We want one arrest. We want that arrest to stick. We want that person to be if it's appropriate incarcerated. Convictions and working with prosecutor's better. Over those four or five years, we got to a place where we drove down incarceration which is lost. We drove it down significantly in New York City.
We drove shootings down from over a thousand to under a thousand to under 900, to under 800. We drove homicides down under 300. We drove index crimes down under 100,000. These are numbers, but they're really people. We got the precision piece so good over the last four or five years here where we drove the incarceration in Rikers Island last year down to about 7000 people from a peak of 21.
That's the good news. Ultimately, really precise in getting New York safer and having less people in jail. That's the lead into this year. The first major thing I would put my... There's a lot of different things that took place. Challenges, you have to adapt the challenges and the laws, but probably the biggest one that took place last year was the Bail Reform Law in New York State.
Lord, there's been so much said about this, and people dig their heels in on each side, but I think if people are fair, number one, when I talk about Bail Reform, I always make the point. We were for reforming Bail Reform because we don't think it's appropriate for somebody to be in jail because they don't have money, and somebody else gets out of jail and they don't have money for the same offense. That's not right.
The way that it was meant to go and there was a lot of different pieces in the Bail Reform Legislation that people don't even understand, so it changed discovery rules. It changed the rules for what laws, what penal law charges can you even ask for bail. If you can ask for it, you have to ask for the least restrictive matter.
Really, everything was done and designed in a manner that would lower the incarceration rates. That's ultimately how the law was crafted. It was very effective. It also did things that people don't realize that we're dealing with today where instead of having the police department having policies on who can be issued desk appearance tickets for minor crimes and we make those decisions and say, "Well, we'll give a desk repair and stick it for a low level theft."
But if you do that same crime over and over many times, we may make a decision that you're not going to get a desk appearance ticket anymore. You may have to go see a judge. That was taken out of our hands. That was legislated. We're dealing with the repercussions of that. Some would argue that's exactly what we meant to do. It's a good thing.
Incarceration came down. I think my main response to that would be we need balance. What happened was when that law was signed and judges and prosecutors started to react to what was coming January 1st, you saw a pretty significant about... I think it's been a while since I talked about this, but I think it was about a 20% drop in the prison population jails in New York City, Rikers Island in one month.
From November 30th to January 1st, 20% of the jail got put onto the street. Again, I would argue context when there was 21,000 people in Rikers Island, there was a lot of people that were swept up. When we had reduced it to 7000, we were getting more and more to a core group of people that were responsible for the most crime in New York City.
When you let 20% of those out in one month, I would ask the people that advocated for that, what was put into place to ensure that they would not be reoffending? What social programs? I hear the term supervised release. Lord, I'm tired of hearing it because I think it's a buzzword at this point.
What was really done to provide supervision and alternatives to those individuals that would give them the best possible chance to live a different life?
Rafael Mangual: What I hear you saying really is that the department's position is not one that is opposed to reform rather that you could actually continue to police well and effectively by being more precise in how you deploy resources and get more bang for your buck. However, it is necessary that the other parts of the system are working with the department to ensure that the few folks on whom the department is concentrating are actually seeing consequences.
We started off the discussion by talking about some of the differences and similarities. One thing that I do see as just a more casual observer of this sort of issue is that it seems to me that what we're seeing a lot more of is these repeat offenders who are getting arrested for these higher profile offenses, shootings, homicides who have pretty extensive rap sheets, who are out on parole, out on bail awaiting disposition of a pending case.
Yet, we do seem to have a little bit of disagreement between the department and some of the city's prosecutors in terms of how to approach incapacitating some of these kind of repeat customers where we're seeing a lot more pre-trial diversions of gun offenders, for example. We're seeing lower sentences being sought. We're seeing just yesterday actually in the New York Daily News [inaudible 00:18:55] published an op-ed arguing that we should not bring back broken windows and that we shouldn't ask prosecutors to pursue lower level offenses even if that person is repeatingly blowing their second chances.
A couple of questions that come to mind here is how can the police department be maximally effective without the kind of support that you're talking about from the other parts of the criminal justice system? In other words, do some of these decarceration efforts that are sort of efforts aimed at decarceration for its own sake, do they risk eroding some of the benefits of good policing? And is there something the department can do about that or do we really need more collaboration along the lines of what we saw during the great crime decline?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. That's a great observation, everything that you just said. I will say that I'll start from this point. When you look at the five prosecutors in New York City. Then, we have a special narcotics part. We have an eastern and a southern district, but I'll stick to the five local prosecutors and even I'll expand it beyond to whether it's defense attorneys or advocate groups.
I think we all want the same thing for the most part. We want to see safety. We want to see programs that work. Certainly, there are differences of opinion at times, but I think that, overall, there is a very good working relationship on multiple levels really down to whether the work actually takes place to a lower level than me between the police department and different units in the, for example, Brooklyn or Manhattan DA's office or The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island.
Are there differences of opinion? Yes. Do we all want the exact same thing and work together very effectively nearly every single day? Yeah. That's the case too, but I think you hit on something where when you talk about the entire system, I did an end-of-year review of crime statistics a couple of years ago, and I'm probably going back about four years.
I talked about what a successful year we had that particular year. I made the statement that, it was in Brooklyn. I said, "I believe that the next future like seismic gains in crime reduction in New York City if everything else stays equal is when we really get it right looking at the entire criminal justice system."
I think that the mistake a lot of people make is talking about crime or statistics. They say, "NYPD, what do you think?" The NYPD is a driving force. We'll take the lead, but we're one component. You really have to look at what happens then from the arrest, the decisions on how to prosecute the arrest. You mentioned pretrial diversion. .When is it appropriate? When is it not? How do those decisions really affect crime? Which programs work and which don't, because it's logical to think that some programs work better than others?
Then going beyond that too, when we make decisions about probation, how do we monitor individuals? How do we make sure that people that are responsible for the most crime are held accountable? Accountability doesn't have to mean behind bars, but maybe it's an effective program in probation where they really can change behavior.
Accountability is key here, but between probation, parole and all the different pieces of the system, how they work together? I'll tell you that there is a lot of collaboration. In the CompStat meetings that take place today, if Jack Maple was alive and sitting here today, he would be probably pretty impressed on how we've shifted over the years.
We spent a great deal of time in those meetings now talking about individual people that are committing significant amounts of crime and how the different pieces of the system work and can work together to fix what affects New Yorkers. That type of work does go on. It's something that is a work in progress, I would say.
I think that we all want to know what system works the best either we're diverting someone to drug treatment or an anti-violence program or any of the others.
Rafael Mangual: You mentioned that there's a lot of collaboration that that there's a lot of agreement, but there are also some differences of opinion. Again, as an outside observer, it would seem to me that one of the sort of core differences of opinion surrounds the issue of public order and its importance to the overall crime-fighting mission of an organization like the NYPD. A lot of energy gets devoted to crime statistics like shootings, homicides. A lot of attention gets paid to things like riots.
But one of the lessons of New York's crime decline that I took away from one of the Manhattan Institute's most noted scholars, George Kelling, and he worked on this issue a lot with people like James Q. Wilson and put his ideas into practice through Bill Bratton was that public order matters. If people see disorder in their street, they're going to internalize that psychologically. That's going to affect how they engage with the community whether they engage with the community.
When we see sort of disorder prevail, we see streets get surrendered to criminal elements over time. What I want to get from you is how important is public order maintenance going to be to the future of policing in New York City and how do you prioritize that and recognize its importance as an issue while, again, we have the sort of dedication to not pursuing these charges when they are leveled?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. I think it is very important. I think it remains certainly New York City is in a different place now than 20 or 30 years ago. This brings up conversations about broken windows and people have very strong beliefs on multiple sides. Some people take a couple of leaps, if you will, to incarceration, but to me, broken window is really about something that you alluded to. It's about order. It's about paying attention to the small things.
I think that one of the things that we've done over the last six years is give our officers options and make them more aware than ever that when I ran CompStat, one of the things I used to say frequently was when somebody calls up and complains about something, that doesn't mean you have to write a summons. It doesn't mean you have to arrest someone, but the one thing it really does mean is that you have to address the condition.
We have to be responsive to people that live and work in New York City. That's, to me, neighborhood policing at its core, being responsive, developing that relationship with the people that we work for and making sure that when there are issues, we address them through a wide range. It could be having a conversation with people and issuing a verbal warning. It could be issuing a... These days, it's a non-criminal civil summons because that in many ways has been taken away from us legislatively.
But it's something that is not going away, I don't think. It's something that at times we can improve on to be quite frankly where we've moved away sometimes. The balance is, Rafael, that while we have to pay attention obviously to the more serious crimes, first and foremost, at times, there's a relationship between these minor low-level order maintenance crimes. We also recognize that we don't want the low-level crimes unchecked to be to become then the more serious significant crimes and lead to shootings.Sometimes, we see that as well.
Rafael Mangual: You touched on something really important that I think I want to sort of transition into which was that the NYPD has a responsibility to respond to the concerns of communities. I think you are probably hearing things in two different voices. It's no secret that one of the challenges that the department faces as an institution today is the enormous amount of public anger that has come to the surface particularly in the wake of George Floyd's death under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
But even before that, it seemed like there was a heightened sense of anti-police sentiment fermenting in the city. We saw, for example, the anti-fare evasion enforcement protests calling for the removal of police from the subways. You've spoken very forcefully about the killing of George Floyd. You've expressed empathy for the message that Black Lives Matter which is something that I think should be axiomatic to absolutely everyone.
That said though at both the state and city level, you mentioned we've had a host of reforms just adopted even recently in the wake of George Floyd's death in more than 10 laws signed by Governor Cuomo. We've had the city council passed the diaphragm bill, but we've also had some voices from the community calling for things like defunding the police.
We have not seen the organized demands from more policing in the wake of the increase in violence which is something that I think runs counter to what a lot of us expected. What I want to start by asking you is what are you and others in the department hearing from New Yorkers on the ground that you are encountering on a day-to-day basis. Is there a gap between the kind of defund rhetoric and what these troubled communities that we see in the crime data actually want from their police?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. Absolutely. The answer is yes. I think that there is at times a disconnect between what the communities want and what you read about. That's not to say that there's not many of the things that you brought up. I think there's some long-standing issues with distrust of the police with wanting better service from the police, wanting to be treated equally and fairly.
Those are things that we are in 100% agreement with and strive to get better at. I don't think it's choose one or the other. I think that when you see something like that what happened in Minneapolis I think everyone would agree and should agree that it was heinous to watch somebody die like that, that didn't have to die, but that doesn't mean you can't support the police too.
I think you should call out what you see, and you can support the police. I think it's just such a unique year that we went through. I think there is a lot of raw emotion justifiably, but I think we're in a different place than we were a couple of months ago too even just a few short months ago. Where we are right now, this is what I hear on the street every day. I believe it.
When you hear defund the police, I do not believe that that's what people want on the street. I'm specifically talking now about people of color. They rely on the police department. They will call us out when we were wrong 100%. I think that's a good thing because they they hold our feet to the fire and make us better, but we have great relationships that we've been nurturing and building for years.
I think it was just such a unique point in time. I also think a piece of it if I was going to be honest which I am, is that people were scared to come out and say that they support the police because as soon as they did, they would have protests outside their house and be shouted down. I don't think that's healthy for anyone.
I think we're better than that. I think we live in a country where we should value everyone's opinion. We should have healthy debates. We should sit across from adversaries and have those debates civilly and look for common ground as opposed to screaming. Maybe, I'm guilty of that sometimes myself, but overwhelmingly, what I see is people supporting the police, asking for more police, upset about what they're hearing and seeing in the media and telling me quite frankly that that's not how they feel.
I think that that's something that we're working through right now. I think that ultimately cooler heads will prevail and will come back that pendulum in law enforcement swings from one side to the other. We need a little more firmly in that middle area where we hear each other, we're not too tough on crime, if you will, but we're not soft either. We're fair. We're working together. We're hearing and seeing each other.
Rafael Mangual: You mentioned that specifically from communities of color that you're hearing the opposite of what I think people might think if they just read the newspapers or watch cable news. There's actually some data behind this. A recent Gallup Poll showed that a majority of black Americans across the United States do not support defunding their local police department, but still there is this kind of dominant narrative in the media that the police pose an existential threat to communities of color.
As the son of a former NYPD detective, as someone who has many friends and family members within the department and within police departments around the country. I know for a fact that these are people who take these jobs specifically to help communities often that they come from because they have a streak of public service that runs through their hearts and in their families.
Despite all that, we see this rhetoric continuing to bubble up. My question is how does that affect the morale of the rank and file? Does that pose a unique challenge to you as a leader of a department to not just have the task of keeping crime under control, but of also corralling a department and keeping them from maybe falling victim to a sense of fear that they don't have the support to get out of their cars and be as proactive as they should?
Dermot Shea: Yeah. Great question. Before I answer it, I just got to say I agree with you on what you said and coming out of my last answer, but I think we have to be honest too. There are times where we got to be quicker. We got to be more transparent on dealing with discipline and rooting out. You hear this term the bad apples. Almost 30 in law enforcement, I've worked with the best people that you would ever work with.
I see firsthand what they do every day. They don't call. They don't ask who's calling when that 911 call comes. They're running towards the danger and trying to help people, but with that said, it's a tough job and not everyone through their own actions have exhibited and proven to us that they deserve the right to wear that shield.
When that's the case, we got to make hard decisions and get rid of people that are taking it for the overwhelming majority of officers. To be fair, that has to be said too. I think we can do better. I think that the public across the country probably doesn't understand how many officers get fired. It's a small number. It's significant. If the public understood that if we did a better job of getting that information out, I think it would change the narrative a little bit.
To your question, it's an incredibly difficult time. I think about the men and women that put on the uniform every day. There are always ups and downs in this business. It is cyclical to an extent, but I've never seen anything like I've seen this year.
If you think of just the craziness of it, three, four months ago, we were talking about having ticker tape parades for first responders. Nobody's talking about ticker tape parades anymore. How quickly it turned, we lost 46 members of this department uniform and civilian to COVID. They've come to work every day in extremely difficult circumstances.
Now, we're looking back and we know a lot more about this disease. Thankfully, the rates of people getting sick is down. More importantly, the people getting treatment, I think, where the doctors have gotten a lot better in terms of knowledge and how to treat, but there was a period there. I know you know this, Rafael, back in March and April when you were literally scared to come to work.
Well, members of the NYPD were coming to work every day and answering the call. Out of that period, when many are still working from home in the public and private sector, to have that incident happen across the country and just in the almost a perfect storm, what it came out of it, and those protests were extremely difficult for the men and women of this department physically, mentally, verbally.
I think they really handled themselves where there's some mistakes, there's always mistakes, but overwhelmingly with incredible proficiency, with professionalism and now, we're inching towards hopefully really better times. It's a tough time. I worry about the offices. I worry about all eight and a half million New Yorkers, to be honest. I do know though that it's how we're going to get out of this is together.
Every time that we speak and talk to each other whether it's talking about problems that we have or just saying to each other thank you for what you do, I think, is a positive. I'll take the opportunity anyone listening now, mail, calls, emails and everything else, offering thanks for the officers, thank you on behalf of the entire NYPD because it does mean a lot.
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