Bushwick-based clothing designer Zam Barrett is on a mission to replace all of the disposable masks worn by Brooklyn police officers for a reusable and more protective option.

To do this, the clothing designer-turned-mask-maker, is sewing more than 1150 washable, reusable masks with his team in its onsite workshop to provide for all of the borough’s police force in the 23 precincts, free of charge.

An officer wears one of 5MMASK’s NYPD masks. Photo: Zam Barrett.

“I am tired of seeing our officers in uniform, with these disposable masks that are incongruent with their uniforms,” Barrett said. “If I can do something about it then why not?”

Some officers had bought masks from him already, so he decided to serve them all. And, he said, he wanted to show them that residents understood they were a necessary part of our community.

“We can work together for greater good,” he said. “It doesn’t always have to be hostile tensions between police and civilians.”

5MMASK, Barrett’s mask-making company, has teamed with the 67th Precinct Clergy Council Inc (aka the God Squad), a faith-based community organization that works with police to reduce gun violence in the 67th precinct, to work on the project. They call it the 4P Initiative, which stands for Protecting our Police, Precinct by Precinct.

Barrett said the masks, which have the NYPD logo attached, can be worn over an N95 mask and are economically and environmentally better than the disposable versions.

“The biggest issue that nobody is talking about is the fact all these disposable masks are plastic polypropylene, and when the pandemic has subsided we will have disposed of millions of them.”

Every Brooklyn officer will be getting a NYPD mask thanks to 5MMASK. Photo: Zam Barrett.

Before the pandemic, we were working to clean up the environment, he said. And the need to do that should not be forgotten, especially as there are sustainable ways to stay safe and protected.

The team already has delivered the masks to the 67th Precinct, and Barrett said the response was great. Over the next month they will continue to deliver masks, precinct by precinct.

Barrett said 5MMASK had donated more than $30,000 worth of masks during the pandemic to frontline workers and vulnerable communities.

You can purchase a mask at the 5MMASK site.


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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