AG James Calls on the NYPD to Ensure Equal Social Distancing Enforcement in NYC Communities

Call Follows Reports and Videos of Aggressive Enforcement
Procedures by the NYPD Towards Communities of Color

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today called on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to better address the department’s apparent unequal enforcement of social distancing rules throughout the City of New York. The request follows recent reports and videos of aggressive enforcement tactics by the NYPD in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, which provides a stark contrast to reports of police response to social distancing rules in predominantly white neighborhoods. Attorney General James is looking into the matter, and has requested enforcement data from the NYPD.  

“The apparent unequal enforcement of social distancing policies is deeply troubling, and deepens the divide between law enforcement and the people they are tasked to protect,” said Attorney General James. “It is inherently wrong to aggressively police one group of people, yet ignore another group that commits the same infraction. The NYPD must better ensure that a New Yorker’s race, color, and neighborhood does not determine how they are patrolled.”  

Recent reports, as well as accompanying photos and video, show the NYPD’s forceful and often hostile tactics while enforcing social distancing procedures in communities of color. A video taken on May 2nd in the East Village captures plainclothes NYPD officers — who themselves are not wearing protective masks — arresting a black man and his girlfriend for allegedly ignoring a verbal request to disperse. The video later shows one of the officers approaching a black bystander with his taser drawn, tackling and repeatedly punching him, dragging him onto the sidewalk, and then kneeling on his neck as he is handcuffed. Another video from May 3rd shows NYPD officers arresting black individuals who had congregated in front of their Brownsville homes, in one instance forcefully body-slamming a man to the ground.

In majority white communities, it is alleged that the NYPD reacted differently. Rather than arresting individuals, the NYPD issued summonses and gave out free facemasks to the thousands of social distance violators in public parks across the city. 

Attorney General James has requested the following information from the NYPD: 

  • All documents regarding NYPD policies or directives for enforcing social distancing laws and regulations, including any materials used to train officers on social distancing enforcement;  

  • All data reflecting 311 complaints of alleged violations of social distancing rules;  
                                                
  • All data on live arrests by NYPD officers related to a failure to comply with social distancing rules, including the total number of arrests in the relevant period per race and age group of the arrestee and per precinct;                            

  • All data on criminal summonses issued by NYPD officers related to a failure to comply with social distancing rules, including the total number of arrests in the relevant period per race and age group of the arrestee and per precinct; and  

  • All data on civil summonses issued by NYPD officers related to a failure to comply with social distancing rules, including the total number of arrests in the relevant period per race and age group of the arrestee and per precinct.  

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Office of the New York State Attorney General enforces laws that protect all New Yorkers from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other protected classes. If an individual believes they have been a victim of discrimination or have other information relevant to this inquiry, they can contact the Civil Rights Bureau by calling 212-416-8250 or emailing civil.rights@ag.ny.gov.  

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