February 25, 2003

Clinton Unveils Federal Funding for Gas Masks for New York City Cops

By William Mauldin

Senator Clinton yesterday announced $4 million in federal funding for gas masks to protect New York City police officers from chemical and biological agents in a terrorist attack.

“We need more help from the federal government for the burdens that are being imposed on the NYPD,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters outside the 13th Precinct stationhouse on East 21st Street in Manhattan. “There isn’t any place in America that needs the help more than New York.”

The $4 million allocated for gas masks represents one step in the city’s quest for between $900 million and $1 billion in federal funds for counter-terrorism and emergency preparedness. Mrs. Clinton said.

“We estimate that we have close to a billion dollars in real needs — as real as this mask,” she said. “I’m going to try to go for the whole amount — we’ll chip away at it.”

After Mrs. Clinton made the announcement, union leaders who represent police officers and sergeants voiced their approval and said putting gas masks inside precinct stationhouses and patrol cars would help the “first responders” who are dispatched to a chemical or biological attack. Elite NYPD forces such as the Emergency Service Unit already have gas masks.

“These masks, we’re told, cover every biological, chemical agent we face as first responders,” said the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch.

Though no high-ranking police officials joined Mrs. Clinton in the announcement, the department released a statement yesterday thanking the senator for procuring the funds:

“We very much appreciate what Senator Clinton has done for the police department,” said the NYPD’s chief spokesman, Michael O’Looney. “Commissioner [Ray] Kelly has been stressing the need for more federal resources for counter-terrorism in New York City, and this is a welcome addition.”

The $4 million approved by Congress would allow the police department to buy between 15,000 and 20,000 Millennium Chemical-Biological Gas Masks, depending on the wholesale price that the company agrees upon for such a large shipment. The masks, manufactured by California-based R.J. Safety Co., retail for $258.

The general manager of R.J. Safety Co., Phil Swink, said the NYPD had not ordered any masks or inquired about a price, but he said his company has quoted prices for the fire department’s Emergency Medical Service, as well as for hospitals in the five boroughs.

Mr. Swink said many ordinary citizens around the country have been buying gas masks through his company’s Web site, while police and fire departments are only beginning to show an interest in the masks.

“A lot of the police and fire departments don’t have gas masks,” Mr. Swink said. It’s kind of ironic.”