“The officers are taxed right now in so many areas,” said Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante describing life as a police officer during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Realize that there’s been 130 executive orders from the governor and the attorney general. That averages out to what officers usually get, in procedure changes, over 10 years,” he said. “We’ve had that in six weeks. That does not count the dozens of orders we’ve had come from our local OEM, our Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, and the many changes that I’ve made in order department, with again, trying to reinvent policing in a very short period of time.”
On every call, officers face potential exposure to the virus, which has claimed 18 lives of Hoboken residents as of April 15.
Most recently, Hoboken Police Officers arrested Clossvale, NY, resident Darrell Rude,33, on April 15 in which he exposed nine police officers to the coronavirus by allegedly coughing on officers during processing at headquarters.
Officers tried to place masks on Rude, however, he would allegedly bite them off and bite them into pieces.
“This is the second time in six days that our night officers had to deal with a highly dangerous and unusual situation and were able to accomplish the task at hand and the apprehension without receiving a serious injury,” said Ferrante. “I am very proud of the work our men and women continue to do daily in dealing with this pandemic and the violent episodes that are occurring during it.”
That same day, on April 15 a judge released 38-year-old Jersey City resident Lonnie Clark who had been arrested by Hoboken Police Officers on April 10 and had allegedly tried to take an officer’s handgun allegedly injuring three officers in the process.
According to Police Chief Ken Ferrante, Clark was released not only because of criminal justice reform but also because they are trying to keep jail capacities low due to COVID-19, noting that he is under curfew between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and that the prosecutor’s office advised against his release.
“Everyone needs to realize this criminal act, during a pandemic and State of Emergency, not only threatened the lives of the officers involved, but also brought extra exposures to those officers, the EMS workers who had to treat the suspect and officers, the Emergency Room staff who had to tend to them when there is so much more going on in there, the officers who then had to secure the suspect at the hospital, and then the officers who had to transport the individual to the Hudson County Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility in Kearny, and then those Corrections Officers who had to process him at the Jail’s Intake,” he said.
Ferrante said officers are not only dealing with exposure and constantly changing directives from the city, and state, but calls for service have increased significantly, up to 30 percent higher than normal during peak periods typically between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in which “calls are basically coming in every minute.”
Ferrante said there has been an increase in domestic violence in Hoboken, with one or two domestic violence calls made to the department per shift, as well as an increase in emotionally disturbed person calls, major medical calls, and a lot of intoxicated persons calls, as well as a load of burglaries and vehicle thefts.
He noted that most of the 12 vehicle thefts happened over the past five weeks since COVID-19 measures began, and three of the thefts were during the same night.
He said overall crime is up approximately 12 percent compared to this same time last year.
He also noted that the department also receives a lot of social distancing complaint calls during the peak period noting that still “people refuse to change from the norms.”
He said oftentimes the police department has to “triage” and determine what is a priority.
While the police department instituted a number of measures to protect officers early on, including, suspending non-essential police services, in-person group role calls, and officers responding to minor medical calls, the department is not immune to positively infected individuals.
Ferrante said the department is currently about 89 percent staffed.
Since March 8, 21 officers have been out on self-quarantine because of exposure, many of whom have already returned to service.
Another three have tested positive, one as recently as April 15 requiring seven officers to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Luckily, the other two officers who tested positive are “fully cured” and returned to work this week.
“They’ve been fully cured for over a week, but we’ve been very cautious not to present any further exposure to them until they are fully healed – and also not to have any exposure to our officers and the residents,” said Ferrante.
He said Police Department Headquarters and police vehicles are also decontaminated or fogged two times per week.
In an update to the Hoboken City Council, he thanked the officers for their outstanding work despite the difficult work as well as the personal toll the virus has had on the officers noting that some have lost loved ones to the disease but still return to work.