Shocking data released from the New York Police Department on Friday revealed a frighteningly disproportionate enforcement of social distancing guidelines in New York City’s boroughs. More than 80 percent of those who were issued summonses were people of color.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March order banned in-person gatherings and ordered residents to stay home, with the exception of emergencies or essential tasks. It has led to an explosion of arrests of blacks, Latinos and Asians.
Violations are now punishable with a $1,000 fine, up from $500 since March, increasing financial hardship in communities already hard hit by widespread job losses.
Police have issued 374 summonses “for violations of emergency procedures and acts liable to spread disease” since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place six weeks ago. Shockingly, 304 of them were issued to black or Latino people — 193 recipients were black and 111 were Hispanic.
Of the 120 social distancing arrests across the city, 68% were black, 24% Latino and 7% white. In Queens 20 social distancing arrests were recorded. Two defendants are Asian, two are white and the other 16 are black or Latino.
Arrest data released Thursday by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for his borough revealed that 35 of 40 people arrested between March 17 and May 4, were black. Half of all residents are white, but 97.5% of Brooklynites arrested are minorities.
Cell phone video shot in Brooklyn Wednesday captured NYPD officers punching two young, black men in the head, one of several recordings of officers beating people during arrests.
“The disturbing images of arrests for social distancing throughout our city serve to erode the progress that has been made in enhancing police accountability and strengthening trust in our criminal justice system,” Gonzalez said in a statement on May 6.
Minorities in New York were already hard hit by a disproportionate number of deaths from coronavirus. Cuomo said 20 of the 21 zip codes with the most new COVID-19 hospitalizations were heavily populated by black and Latino residents at a Saturday news briefing.
He noted that the virus was ravaging communities of color and low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx and Brooklyn. “The cruel irony is that the poorest people pay the highest price,” Cuomo said.
Police reform activists, community advocates and the New York City Police Benevolent Association (NYC PBA) have been objecting to the enforcement of social distancing by officers. They have compared the disproportionate impact on minorities to stop-and-frisk’s enforcement in the post-9/11 era. At that time police were stopping people and searching them for weapons or other illegal items.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended using the NYPD at a Thursday coronavirus briefing. “This is about health and safety first,” the mayor said. “When you say safety, you say NYPD. We’re dealing with a pandemic. “We’re dealing with something absolutely unprecedented, and there’s no way in hell we are going to be able to keep people safe if we don’t use the strongest, best public safety organization in this country.”
“We do not accept disparity, period,” said de Blasio, but on the streets of New York this is all talk, no action, as minorities battle with police in one confrontation after another.