March 26 marked the date for the first policeman to expire of Covid-19 in France. At least 51 have been known to have tested positive for the coronavirus. In Spain, the figure of infections among the police has exceeded 700.
The United States has been grappling with an equally severe situation. As of April 6, 12 members of the New York Police Department had died; and as many as 1,400 have called in sick. The figures in Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit were also high. In South America, Peru had reported 17 deaths among police officers so far.
The virus is spreading among police in Japan as well. According to Nikkan Gendai (April 25), as of April 22, the National Police Agency reported that 73 police officers had tested positive for the coronavirus. The same day, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police learned that a 42-year-old chief patrolman heading a motorcycle brigade attached to the Omori Police Station in Ota Ward had tested positive, raising the total to 74.
Of the 74, 22 were officers or civilian employees working in Tokyo.
What Nikkan Gendai finds surprising is the rapidity with which the number has increased -- up by fourfold from just two weeks previous, when five policemen had tested positive. About 250 colleagues of the five, who had been in close contact, were ordered to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Authorities are now concerned that the nation may face a looming shortage of officers, which would pose a threat to public safety.
"Frankly, I suppose the officers became infected because they've been careless over protecting themselves from the coronavirus," Itsuo Tobimatsu, a former detective of the Hyogo Prefectural Police, is quoted as saying. "Especially since theirs is the kind of work that involves contact with people, they should understand there's a greater risk of becoming infected. And it was inexcusable for members of the West Kobe police station to have organized a party in the midst of this contagion. What can you say, except they were being unprofessional and derelict in their duty?"
Maintenance of public safety, unfortunately puts police in situations where they are unable to avoid contacts. During epidemics more people die, which means more police officers come in contact with bodies. According to reports, from the end of March to April 23, 15 corpses in five prefectures were found to have been infected with the coronavirus.
"With the spread of the virus, the police also have to change," says the aforementioned Tobimatsu. "While cash registers at convenience stores and supermarkets now shield workers from infection using vinyl sheeting, you don't see any precautions like that for example at the front desk at police stations. They haven't figured out yet that they also need to adopt preventative measures. That goes for interrogation rooms and other places. They should put a priority on procurement of protective gear. This is something they can start adopting right away.
"Unless things change, it's possible we'll see more infections between policemen," he added.
As a part of maintaining public safety, police officers should also undergo an antibody test, Nikkan Gendai urges.© Japan Today