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De Blasio Copgate: Mayor tries to calm storm over a vulgar snub to police request for masks, PPE

The commissioner reportedly dismissed NYC police concerns about contracting coronavirus

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
(Bryan Thomas/Getty)
Updated: May 16, 2020 - 9:13am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is stepping into a firestorm over the city health commissioner reportedly rebuffing a police request for masks and other protective gear when the deadly coronavirus hit – in an effort to calm angry officers and union officials demand her firing.

"I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops," health department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot reportedly said in response to police Chief Terence Monahan's request for safety equipment to keep his officers from becoming infected. 

Barbot made the comment in March, but the controversy didn't heat up until the New York Post reported it earlier this week.

"I need to understand what happened here, it does need to be addressed," de Blasio said Thursday. "If it is accurate, the commissioner needs to apologize to the men and women of the NYPD."

The New York police force includes roughly 36,000 men and women, serving about 8 million residents, making it a critical part of the city's infrastructure and an influential voice in city politics, policy and government. 

De Blasio spoke Thursday as police unions were already calling for Barbot's dismissal. 

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the commissioner should be fired and "forced to look in the eye of every police family who lost a hero to this virus. Look them in the eye and tell them they aren’t worth a rat’s ass."

Likewise, the Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted that the group thinks Barbot "should be immediately fired." 

"[D]r Barbot's comments make it clear she has no personal or professional regard for the police," association President Ed Mullins said. 

The city Department of Health, meanwhile, tried to downplay the tone of the March conversation, characterizing it to local media as one in which "there was a heated exchange between the two where things were said out of frustration but no harm was wished on anyone."

The department said the commissioner has already apologized to Monahan and that "the apology was accepted."

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