NYPD Union Calls For End Of Enforcement Of Social Distancing
New York, NY – The head of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) largest officers union released a statement on Monday that called for an end to police enforcement of social distancing.
“This situation is untenable: the NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether,” NYPD Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch said in a statement posted to the union’s official Facebook page.
“The cowards who run this city have given us nothing but vague guidelines and mixed messages, leaving the cops on the street corners to fend for ourselves,” Lynch continued. “Nobody has a right to interfere with a police action. But now that the inevitable backlash has arrived, they are once again throwing us under the bus.”
“Meanwhile, those same politicians are still watering down our laws, releasing real criminals and discouraging proactive enforcement of fare evasion and quality of life issues,” the union boss said. “As a result, our subways are in chaos and we have hero nurses getting mugged on their way to our hospitals.”
The New York Post reported that Lynch was referring to a nurse who was mugged in Times Square on April 26 and had her cell phone stolen out of her hand.
“As the weather heats up and the pandemic continues to unravel our social fabric, police officers should be allowed to focus on our core public safety mission. If we don’t, the city will fall apart before our eyes,” he warned.
The post from NYPD’s biggest union came the same day NYPD Officer Francisco Garcia was placed on modified duty after a video of a violent arrest that occurred during a social-distancing patrol went viral.
The incident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday when officers tried to enforce social distancing at the corner of East Ninth Street and Avenue D in the East Village and the people became disorderly, the New York Post reported.
Officers had told people to disperse and were dealing with some who refused to move along.
They could be seen resisting officers’ attempts to put handcuffs on them.
The video showed the officers had the suspects up against a building and then took them to the ground in an effort to take them into custody.
A video posted to Facebook by Daquan Owens showed that's when bystanders were encroaching on the officers.
Suddenly a plainclothes officer, identified by sources to the New York Post as NYPD Officer Francisco Garcia jumped up and started walking toward a man who had gotten too close, the video showed.
Officer Garcia was holding a Taser pointed in the direction of the onlookers and ordered them to “get back” as he approached.
Then he engaged the trigger for the stun gun so it would make a cracking sound as he continued to walk toward them, the video showed.
“Move the f--k back!” Officer Garcia ordered the onlookers several times.
“What are you flexing for?” the officer asked a man as he holstered his Taser.
That’s when the man came in at the officer while in a bladed stance with his fist clenched, the video showed.
The man then appeared to swing his fist at the officer.
The video showed the officer grabbed the man – later identified as 33-year-old Donnie Wright – and pushed him backwards.
Then Officer Garcia slapped Wright in the face and took him to the ground, where he proceeded to punch his upper body and slap his face again, the video showed.
The officer dragged the man back to the sidewalk and put a knee into his back to keep him face down on the pavement as another plainclothes officer jumped in to assist Officer Garcia in taking Wright into custody.
The video showed Officer Garcia delivered more blows to Wright in the process of trying to get the man’s arms behind his back for handcuffs.
Then Officer Garcia sat on the handcuffed man’s head and pulled his Taser out of its holster, the video showed.
The video showed a uniformed officer took over and Officer Garcia headed back into the arrest taking place behind him, involving the original group of people the officers were arresting when he tangled with Wright.
Wright was arrested and charged with assault on a police officer, menacing, and resisting arrest, the New York Post reported.
NYPD told the New York Post in a statement that Officer Garcia had felt threatened when Wright took up a fighting stance.
“It started out as a social distancing enforcement,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters on Sunday. “I am aware of the video that’s out there.”
Commissioner Shea said Officer Garcia had been placed on modified duty while an Internal Affairs investigation was conducted.
“I would just reiterate that we had tens of thousands of interactions with people all across the city yesterday, most of them without having to issue any type of enforcement activity, whether it’s a summons or arrest,” the commissioner said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized NYPD on Twitter.
But New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is in agreement with the PBA that it’s time for NYPD to get out of the social distancing business, the New York Post reported.
“It has been two weeks since my office requested that the administration release demographic data on social distancing enforcement, and over a month since we cautioned against a response reliant on law enforcement rather than a more holistic community enforcement strategy,” Williams said. “Now, we see both why they have been resistant to our calls and why it is even more critical and urgent they address this selective enforcement against people and communities of more color.”
He likened social-distancing enforcement to the controversial stop-and-frisk and said the racial disparities in enforcement were the same.
“The incidents we saw this past weekend in our parks and on our streets and social media feeds have made it abundantly clear that the same historical disparities in police enforcement are reflected in and magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic response,” the public advocate warned.