CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Officer Down Memorial Page that has been tracking law enforcement COVID-19 deaths nationwide finds that 473 officers have died from the infection since the pandemic started. That is five times the number killed by gunfire.
"You're exposed to bodily fluids; you're exposed-on a good day-you're exposed to people coughing; you're exposed to people getting, you know, being close-talkers and getting up in your face, you're exposed to arrestees, you put hands on people to place them in handcuffs or to get them off the ground when they fall in," said Bill Kushner, P4SECURITYSOLUTIONS.
For all those reasons, the former Des Plaines police chief and security consultant, Kushner said law enforcement officers are especially susceptible to COVID. That's also why the Officer Down Memorial Page is so jarring. They document 228 police killed by COVID this year, compared to 48 gunfire deaths; last year there were 245 police COVID deaths compared to 45 by gunfire.
"Look at the numbers from the Officer Down Memorial Page marking this horrible increase in that sort of line of duty deaths, and they are rightly considered line of duty deaths from COVID-19," Kushner said..
Nine Illinois officers have died from COVID according to the Officer Down page, including one from Melrose Park, the Cook County Sheriff's Office Correctional Officers, one Cook County Sheriff's Deputy, four from CPD, all veteran law enforcement officers with decades of experience.
"If you look at the Streets and San worker they rarely come in direct contact with the public, you know, they're out there driving a street sweeper, picking up trash, whatever. The police officer by the nature of the job responds to calls for service and goes into people's homes and comes into contact with people in traffic stops and in the stores, walking down the street. They're more prone to this contact with the individuals then other municipal workers are," said Kushner.
The vaccine status of officers who died has not been reported and there is no data available for officer illness from the virus or for lost time on the job. Chicago is not alone it the current spat about whether city officials can mandate officer vaccines or testing. It's just closest to home and involves the second largest city police force in the nation.