Social Distance

The city’s largest police union is demanding cops get “out of the social distancing enforcement business,” while slamming New York pols for “releasing criminals,” “discouraging proactive policing,” and leaving subways “in chaos.”

“This situation is untenable: the NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether,” a statement from Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said.

“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 said. “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.”

Lynch was referring to a fracas that erupted as NYPD cops were trying to enforce social distancing rules over the weekend in the East Village and a cop was caught on video slapping and hitting a bystander who appeared to challenge him.

Cops were trying to disperse a group of people near the corner of East Ninth Street and Avenue D around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, when Shakiem Brunsom and Ashley Serrano allegedly refused to move along and resisted cops’ efforts to cuff them, police said.

One of the cops, identified by police sources as Officer Francisco Garcia, got into a fight with bystander Donni Wright, 33, police sources said. The cop was placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun and shield, police sources said. The Manhattan district attorney declined to prosecute Wright and he was set free.

Lynch added that the politicians are “still watering down our laws, releasing real criminals and discouraging proactive enforcement of fare evasion and quality of life issues.”

“As a result, our subways are in chaos and we have hero nurses getting mugged on their way to our hospitals,” he said, referring to a nurse who had her phone torn out of her hand in Times Square on April 26. “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.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also wants cops out of the social distancing business but for different reasons. He believes the process is racist.

“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,” he 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 said recent social distancing incidents — including a large Orthodox Jewish funeral service in Brooklyn — have made it clear that the same racial disparities that occurred in stop-and-frisk are happening with social distancing enforcement.

“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,” he said.

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