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‘Suicide squad’ officers told not to save potential jumpers on GWB: Report

Suicide prevention officers have saved 230 jumpers since 2014.

The George Washington Bridge's south walkway, which is patrolled by suicide prevenPixabay

Police officers patrolling the George Washington Bridge have been ordered not to pull potential jumpers to safety by the Port Authority Police Department, the New York Daily News reported.

Suicide prevention officers must now wait for the PAPD’s Emergency Service Unit to arrive rather than attempt to save would-be jumpers themselves, according to a directive issued Monday,

“PAPD personnel will refrain from using physical force when required to physically restrain a suicidal jumper on or near the bridge’s railing,” according to the orders obtained by the Daily News,

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The move came one day after the publication reported that PAPD’s suicide prevention team saved 70 lives in 2016 — and 230 in total since 2014 — without the officers wearing safety harnesses. The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association has asked that officers patrolling the GWB walkways wear the $40 harnesses to protect them from falling as they attempt to save jumpers.

“ESU personnel will assist by utilizing their equipment and training to subdue the suicidal bridge jumper. All efforts will be made to ensure that police officers are not placed in a position that would compromise their personal safety when attempting to physically subdue a suicidal bridge jumper,” the PAPD’s directive said.

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PAPD SuperintendentMichael Fedorko on Tuesday required an ESU truck be on-site when the GWB walkway is open, which is from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. daily. TheDaily News, however, reported that there was no ESU vehicle on the bridge Tuesday afternoon, so it is unclear when the requirement goes into effect. Only one of the bridge's pedestrian paths are open to the public; "the north sidewalk is closed at all times," according to Port Authority's website.

Though the orders are an attempt to keep PAPD's suicide prevention officers safe, the new rulemay compromise them in another way.

“We took an oath to protect people. We are going to prevent the loss of a life if there is something we can do about it,” a PAPD source told the Daily News.

 

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