New York Daily News

March 20, 2002

12 Sickened After Police Academy Class

By MICHELE McPHEE
Daily News Police Bureau Chief

Astrenuous training program at the Police Academy was suspended yesterday after eight cops were hospitalized and four others became ill, NYPD officials said last night.

The 5-year-old program, "Training for Uniformed Members of the Service Performing Enforcement Duties in Plainclothes," teaches self-defense and arrest techniques using punching bags and repetitive handcuffing.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered the program halted after 12 of the 28 cops taking the three-day class tested positive for "sharply elevated enzyme levels," which leads to a condition called rhabdomyolysis.

Of the 12, eight suffered muscle soreness and had darkened urine, said Dr. Gregory Fried, the NYPD's executive chief surgeon.

The illness first showed up Friday — the last day of the class — when a 6th Precinct cop was sent to Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan. Doctors discovered elevated levels of CPK — an indicator of muscle destruction and sometimes heart failure, Fried said.

All 28 cops in the training program have been tested. Of the 12 who fell ill, nine were assigned to the 6th Precinct, officials said.

"It [the training] is very intense. I am the physician for the department, but it is probably too intense, and after a day or two it can become cumulative," Fried said.

"They are not seriously ill," he said of the sickened cops. "They feel fine, they look fine."

But Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch disputed that. One officer was told he would be in the hospital for up to six days, Lynch said.

"We've had cops that have been shot who have been in the hospital for less than that," he said last night.

Lynch said PBA officials are reaching out to the other 5,500 officers who have undergone the training to see if they became ill and didn't report it.

"As police officers, we tend not to complain a lot," he said. "We usually walk it off, or ignore it. Was that happening in the past, and these guys should have been in the hospital? Maybe this was a case that it shouldn't have been walked off."

PBA officials also are concerned about how the officers were treated by the trainers after complaining of illness.

"There should be no reason for the department to use any type of training that puts people in the hospital. These cops were telling the trainer they weren't feeling well, and the response they got is, 'You're not a man,'" said John Flynn, Manhattan South trustee for the PBA.

"Just to walk on a treadmill at Police Headquarters, you need medical clearance. We need to find out what happened here, and why now," he said.