New marching orders given to suicide prevention cops who patrol the George Washington Bridge forbid them from grabbing people trying to jump from the span.
The Port Authority Police Department directive, some officers say, could present cops with a soul-searching dilemma: Defy the order and save would-be jumpers — or potentially let them die.
The order issued Monday requires officers assigned to the “suicide squad” to wait for members of the department’s Emergency Service Unit to arrive, rather than try to pull people to safety.
The order came a day after the Daily News reported the suicide prevention team saved 70 people last year — without cops being equipped with $40 harnesses.
“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 handed down by the George Washington Bridge command and acquired by The News.
The brave officers, some of whom have grabbed and hung on to people just as they stepped off the railing, have saved 230 people from taking their own lives since 2014.
Many walkway patrol officers would find it hard to abide by the new directive, especially if someone is standing right in front of them, seconds away from taking their own life, and other assistance is nowhere in sight.
“We took an oath to protect people,” one Port Authority Police Department source with knowledge of the directive said. “We are going to prevent the loss of a life if there is something we can do about it.”
The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association requested harnesses for the walkway cops, fearing that they could topple over the walkway railing as they try to save jumpers.
“ESU personnel will assist by utilizing their equipment and training to subdue the suicidal bridge jumper,” the orders state. “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 Port Authority would not comment on the new orders, claiming they are part of the agency’s “internal strategies,” a spokesman said.
Following a meeting with police brass Tuesday, PAPD Superintendent Michael Fedorko ordered that an ESU truck be stationed at the Hudson River span linking Washington Heights to New Jersey at all times the pedestrian walkways are open.
It’s not clear when that order goes into effect. The News checked on Tuesday afternoon and there was no ESU truck on the bridge. According to the Port Authority website, the south walkway is open from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. The north walkway is currently closed.
Discussions on giving harnesses to walkway cops in the future are “ongoing,” a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
“You just can’t give (these cops) a harness,” the source said. “You have to train them so they don’t hurt themselves.”
Port Authority Police Department spokesman Joseph Pentangelo said the ESU trucks would have “police officers trained in the use of harnesses during rescue efforts.”
“This follows the guidelines of other agencies that ESU personnel be called to handle such situations,” Pentangelo said.
Walkway patrol officers shouldn’t take the risks that Port Authority ESU cops are trained for, Pentangelo said.