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NYPD officers want to “get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether” following heavy criticism stemming from a violent confrontation over the weekend as cops attempted to enforce coronavirus mitigation rules as temperatures soared.
Patrick Lynch, head of the Police Benevolent Association, blasted city leaders for providing officers with “nothing but vague guidelines and mixed messages” regarding enforcement of social distancing rules, “leaving the cops on the street corners to fend for ourselves.”
Late last week ahead of what was forecast to be mild weather, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that NYPD officers wouldn’t tolerate people gathering outdoors in violation of the rules.
The New York Daily News reported on de Blasio’s warning with a story headlined, “Stay apart outdoors this weekend — NYPD won’t tolerate social distancing violations during nice weather.”
The lede stated:
Wear a mask and stay six feet away from other people during the nice weather this weekend — or find yourself with a summons or even in handcuffs, Mayor de Blasio warned Friday.
He said there would be 1,000 officers spread out in city parks specifically to enforce what the mayor called a “no tolerance for gatherings” policy.
“We’re going straight to summons. If someone resists the summons, we’re going to arrest,” he pledged.
And that’s what occurred. Fox News reported that officers handed out more than 112 summonses over the weekend to people who violated social distancing orders. At least three people were arrested.
The arrests took place in Manhattan’s East Village. Plainclothes cops handcuffed two people — Shakiem Brunson, 31, and Ashley Serrano, 22 — at a deli.
But as the officers began to approach 33-year-old Donni Wright, a confrontation began. An officer was caught on video slapping Wright in the face before punching him in the shoulder before dragging him to a sidewalk.
NYPD officer stripped of badge after over-aggressive take down of intervening bystander https://t.co/FdVoYvPUiD
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) May 4, 2020
A bystander recorded the exchange and uploaded it to social media, where it went viral.
That response has been compared to a much calmer approach by officers elsewhere in the city, where people in other neighborhoods could be seen in parks sitting or standing less than six feet apart, many with no masks or gloves.
As for Wright, he’s been charged with assaulting an officer while resisting arrest, but it doesn’t appear as though the Manhattan district attorney’s office is going to prosecute, at least for now, pending a further inquiry.
As for de Blasio, he has called the incident “unacceptable.” The officer, meanwhile, has had his gun and badge taken away and he’s currently riding a desk as the department conducts an internal review.
On Monday, de Blasio said that the NYPD’s overall response has been good. “Just the appearance of the NYPD causes people to correct their behavior,” he said.
“This one incident is troubling, but there’s been thousands and tens of thousands of interactions between police officers and civilians over the last weeks that went very well where the NYPD went and made sure that people were practicing social distancing when enforcement was necessary,” the mayor continued.
Nevertheless, the Police Benevolent Association president said it now appears as though de Blasio is hanging officers out to dry — again.
“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 said.
The NYPD has historically had a rocky relationship with de Blasio, and the extra enforcement of ‘nanny rules’ during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t helping.
Late last month, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, a New York Police Department union, Ed Mullins, called de Blasio “an idiot” for telling his cops to arrest anyone gathering in large groups after the mayor and NYPD officers broke up a gathering of Jews paying their last respects to a rabbi who died of COVID-19.
In February, the SBA blamed de Blasio’s policing policies after a gunman walked into a precinct station in the Bronx and began shooting at officers, wounding a lieutenant.
In January, Vincent Vallelong, vice president of the SBA, ripped de Blasio for his sanctuary city policy and refusal to work with federal immigration officials even to target illegal alien criminals. Vallelong said most NYPD officers want to cooperate with immigration officials but are forbidden.
In 2014, de Blasio was booed during a graduation ceremony for new NYPD officers at Madison Square Garden.
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