Blacks and Latinos are overwhelmingly ticketed by NYPD for social distancing violations

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The NYPD patrols Central Park, on the lookout for social distancing violators

NEW YORK (CNN) — More than 80 percent of those who were issued summonses for social distancing violations in New York City were people of color, according to data released Friday, confirming what advocates and local elected leaders have clamored about after the enforcement started over six weeks ago.

The data revealed 374 summonses were handed out from March 16 to May 5, averaging less than 10 summonses a day over the 42-day period. And of that total, 193 of those issued summonses were black and 111 were Hispanic, according to the New York Police Department.

All told, 81% of people issued summonses were black and Latino.

“When I saw those numbers I found them to be an indicator that something’s wrong and we need to fix it. And we will fix it,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.

The summonses were issued for what the NYPD said were violations of emergency procedures and acts likely to spread disease.

Over the six-week period, there were 17 social gathering incidents, which accounted for 163 of the summonses.

In Brooklyn, there were 206 summonses issued, 121 of which were issued at 12 social gatherings. In the Bronx, 99 summonses were issued, 42 of which were issued at five social gatherings, the NYPD said.

Two-thirds of the summonses distributed to white people were in NYPD’s Patrol Borough North, which includes the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, according to the data.

Jewish community leaders recently wrote an open letter to de Blasio, expressing their “anger and disappointment” over the mayor’s stern warnings to “the Jewish community” following a large Hasidic funeral gathering.

De Blasio on Friday stressed that the enforcement numbers were only a snapshot and not indicative of the majority of interactions between the public and police.

“The number of arrests and summonses are extraordinarily low,” said de Blasio, who also added that the NYPD has shown restraint but he wants more training and clearer protocols for police enforcing social distancing.

Social distancing arrests
The Queen’s District Attorney’s office told CNN it has handled roughly 20 arrests related to alleged social distancing violations and of the 20 arrests, 16 of the defendants are black or Hispanic, two are Asian and two are white.

“My office will not be prosecuting social distancing arrests,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Nobody wants a health crisis to fuel a criminal justice crisis.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office also says it will not prosecute any social distancing arrests and that it is unaware of any being made so far. But it says there are six people whose arrests on other charges may have followed their being stopped for an apparent violation of social distancing rules.

Five of these are African American males, it said, and one is an African American-Hispanic female.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office previously told CNN that they had declined to prosecute social distancing arrests as well. The Staten Island District Attorney’s Office says they haven’t received any arrests related to social distancing.

Altercations were caught on video
The release of the data comes after violent altercations between the public and police were caught on video.

Last Saturday, an officer was caught on a now-viral video knocking a bystander to the ground and hitting him following another arrest on the Lower East Side.

The officer, Francis X. Garcia, was one of a group of plainclothes officers that tried to get a small group of people not wearing masks to leave the area.

Garcia was caught on video flashing his stun gun to a small crowd, demanding they get back. And when a bystander confronted Garcia, the cop took him down, throwing punches and slaps at the man while he was on the ground, the video showed.

Garcia was stripped of his badge and his gun, police said.

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries tweeted a video of what he called aggressive social distancing enforcement in East New York, Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office released its own social distancing data on Thursday which showed 40 social distancing arrests in Brooklyn between March 17 and May 4. Of those 40, 35 were black, four were Hispanic and one was white. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez declined to prosecute all 40 arrests, saying earlier in the week that it should be a last resort.

“The disturbing images of arrests for social distancing throughout our city serve to erode the process that has been made in enhancing police accountability and strengthening trust in our criminal justice system,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “My 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.”

NYPD top cop vows to review every incident
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams had been critical of social distancing measures since officials announced the enforcement regulations in March.

“This virus has disproportionately claimed thousands of black and brown bodies, and now, in response, it is black and brown bodies facing the kind of over-policing never seen in other communities,” Williams said in a statement on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that, despite the footage, police have been enforcing laws with what he called “an extremely light touch” adding “we have to make sure we are impartial in how we enforce the law.”

Shea did say that every incident would be reviewed.

“I’m going to look at every incident and I’m going to call it as I see it,” Shea said. “And if the cops in a particular incident were wrong, they’re going to hear from me on that. If I think that the cops were right, I’m going to look at all the circumstances of the incident — body camera, surveillance videos, what they were dealing with at a particular state, and I’m going to call it that way too.”

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