OVER THE PAST FIVE MONTHS
The officers who patrol Lower Manhattan not only continued to do their jobs protecting the community under dire circumstances—they deepened their bond with their neighbors. “I’ve worked in the Bronx and Manhattan South and without a doubt, this is the tightest, closest-knit community I’ve ever been a part of,” said Capt. Paul J. Zangrilli, who has commanded the precinct for just over a year.
The precinct commander said he and his officers have worked closely with local business organizations, the community board, store and restaurant owners, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin to educate them on how to best protect their properties and their health—and promote ongoing dialogue.
“In an era where there is clearly significant anti-police sentiment, in this precinct, we feel embraced and trusted,” he said. “Our officers have been made to feel that they are valued in keeping the community safe and flourishing.”
And while recent protests have led to some clashes between uniformed officers and demonstrators, Capt. Zangrilli has made it clear the men and women of the 5th Precinct are steadfast in their duty to serve and protect the protestors as well as the rest of the community.
“We can empathize with each other,” he explained. “We’ve had incredible dialogues with people who support us, and with those who are rallying for change. We know we can always improve.”
Capt. Zangrilli and his officers face down their own fears every day
to go out and patrol the community and continue to keep residents safe despite the threat of infection and possible death.
The marauding virus hit the NYPD early and hard. By May, more than 7,000 officers were reported ill and, by mid-July, 31 had died from the deadly infection.
“We had 16 confirmed cases among our ranks in this precinct alone”
“We had 16 confirmed cases among our ranks in this precinct alone,” Capt. Zangrilli somberly recalled. “The officers were fearful for their families. But they also knew they had to go out there and address the needs of the community more now than ever.”
Of course, precautions needed to be taken. “Patrol cars are disinfected from top to bottom with each tour,” the Captain cautioned. “Masks are worn non-stop. We sometimes hold our role calls outside and everybody was issued gloves and sanitizers. We all understood that we were the most exposed.”
Still, they continued to patrol and, in many cases, provide a new kind
of service to the community. “The pandemic brought a decrease in street crime and an uptick in burglaries,” he said. “So we educated business owners on how to best secure their properties, and we tactically deploy our officers to better respond to the evolving nature of crime in the community.”
And through it all, they continue to work with other essential service workers from Emergency Services to FDNY and other agencies to help New Yorkers survive and thrive in the worst calamity to assault the city since the terror attacks of 9/11.
“In my 15 years on the job I have never been more proud of how our officers have performed,” Capt. Zangrill said. “And we remain committed in our desire to continue to build relationships and to keep this community safe and flourishing. Our officers have done a great job and will continue to do so—despite the challenges.”
Seen in Summer 2020 Essential issue