By CHRISTINA CARREGA and AARON KATERSKY
(NEW YORK) — In the last seven weeks, the NYPD has arrested and issued summonses for almost 400 people, mostly blacks and Latinos, for allegedly violating social distancing and other violations, newly released data shows.
Demographic data for social distancing enforcement by the NYPD between March 16 and May 5 was published on Friday after videos posted on social media last weekend raised questions over whether police are enforcing consistently in neighborhoods of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.
The statistics showed that 374 summonses were issued for allegations likely to spread disease and to violate emergency measures. Of those who received the summonses, 193 are African American, 111 are Hispanic, 51 are white, 14 are Asian and three are American Indian.
In Brooklyn, 206 summonses were issued including 121 from 12 alleged social gatherings. In the Bronx, 99 summonses were issued including 42 at five social gatherings.
“We have to make sure that we are impartial in how we enforce the law,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Thursday during an internal question-and-answer session. “We have a couple videos that people think otherwise.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office is “reviewing allegations of excessive force during recent Brooklyn arrests and will investigate these incidents to determine if disciplinary recommendations or criminal charges are warranted.”
The NYPD insisted it does its work “evenly and fairly” though one official conceded some of what is depicted on the videos is troubling.
“We’re not targeting any particular neighborhood,” said Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North. Still, he conceded during a Thursday call with reporters “we had a tough weekend” and “none of these videos look great.”
The city also reported that 120 arrests were made during the same time period.
Gonzalez’s office released an analysis on Thursday of the social distance-related arrests that were made in Brooklyn between March 17 and May 4.
The analysis, first reported by the New York Times, showed that of the 40 people arrested during that time period, 35 were African American, 4 were Hispanic and 1 was white. The arrests were made in neighborhoods — Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills and East New York — which have large concentrations of blacks and Latinos.
“We do not accept disparity. Period,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at his daily press briefing on Friday, adding, “It’s also important to note that some of the data that went out originally included arrests that were not actually related to social distancing, or summonses, that were related to other types of offenses. So that just needs to be clarified.”
The more than three dozen arrests in the prosecutor’s report were charged with obstructing governmental administration and other offenses.
Some of the arrests expected to result in desk appearance tickets while others were expected to be formally processed into central bookings, a law enforcement source said.
“Our office declined prosecution of all 40 as part of our COVID policy,” according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office which has declined to prosecute low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety during the pandemic.
In Queens, roughly 20 arrests related to alleged failure to comply with the city’s social distancing mandate were made. Of those arrests, 16 were African American or Hispanic, two were Asian and two were white.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz told ABC News on Friday that her office will not prosecute social distancing arrests. “Nobody wants a health crisis to fuel a criminal justice crisis,” said Katz, who contracted COVID 19, but has fully recovered.
“We respect the challenges that the men and women of the New York City Police Department face in policing during this pandemic and the dangers that they face every day in keeping our city safe,” said Katz. “That being said, we are committed to nondiscriminatory and even-handed enforcement of all laws, not just social distancing laws. The health, safety and rights of all New Yorkers from every community are our priority.”
Meanwhile, the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office has arrested anyone related to social distancing, said Ryan Lavis, a spokesman for the office on Friday.
Maddrey said he is still reviewing the videos along with body camera and surveillance footage to determine what, if any, discipline is warranted.
Maddrey added that the NYPD is concerned the videos undermine the work officers have been doing as coronavirus has changed the priorities of policing.
“We’ve been giving out masks, we’ve helped create food banks, we’ve been part of giving out tablets so kids can do their school work, we’ve been assisting at funerals,” Maddrey said.
Maddrey also agreed with critics that officers enforcing social distancing should themselves wear a mask.
“Our officers have a duty to the community to wear their masks as often as they can. We have to be fair and we should be wearing a mask as we address that.”
“We will give more training to our officers, clearer protocols and make sure each of our neighborhoods are treated equally,” de Blasio said on Friday. “That being said, we are going to use NYPD to keep people safe, specifically when fighting this pandemic.”
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