Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch was direct and to-the-point on Monday in his “PBA statement on social distancing enforcement” press release. He wants his officers to have no part in any of this insanity, and thinks diverting cops from fighting crime is ludicrous and will leave the city a rotten apple.
Here’s what he said, verbatim:
“This situation is untenable: the NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether. 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. 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.
Meanwhile, those same 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. 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.”
Police officers across the city are facing an angry response to the NYPD’s stepped-up enforcement of the social distancing rules.
But are these rules even enforceable laws? According to our Governor, New York State residents only need mask up when keeping a social distance of six feet is impossible. New York City guidelines concur. But then Mayor de Blasio contradicted this.
Community relations between law enforcement officers and the masses of New Yorkers are being strained. Citizens don’t want to feel harassed.
At a time when scientific consensus about COVID19 is anything but unanimous, and disagreement over appropriate response is even more fractured, the police have been asked to step in and assume the face of social distancing enforcement, when the practice of social distancing is itself an untested and experimental practice, apparently rooted more in politics than medically-sound advice.
Of course the citizens are mad. People are out of work. They miss meaningful connection with others. Some haven’t received any unemployment benefits yet. Bills are piling up.
That’s not a reason to give a police officer a hassle; they’re only doing their job, after all. But friction and conflict are inevitably going to happen, due to these extraordinary circumstances.
It’s clear that Patrick Lynch is stating an obvious truth. The police would agree. The public would agree. The only place there’d be contention would be City Hall.
Writing of, “…vague guidelines and mixed messages…,” Lynch succinctly states the dilemma NYPD officers are being handed in becoming “enforcers” of social distancing rules that are self-contradictory.
The police were hired to enforce the laws. That is a noble and essential activity we should all respect.
When laws are ambiguous and penalties unclear, and police are reassigned from fighting crime to making sure no one is within six feet of one another, or wearing a (largely ineffective) mask, we inevitably have chaos. And, deep resentment on the part of many New Yorkers.
Asking anyone to don a mask in public is beyond even the rules stipulating how New Yorkers must practice social distancing.
True, this entire dilemma began with videos circulating showing police officers arresting New Yorkers in connection with maintaining the new social distancing laws. People resent the social conditioning and rightly feel it’s absurd. Some resisted. Who was wrong? Who was right?
Resisting a lawful order from a cop is a bad idea and never really right. But what if your only underlying offense, beyond interfering with governmental administration, was to freely assemble, a right guaranteed us as Americans but now abridged by arbitrary decree?
One situation caught on video involved undercover police officer Francisco Garcia not wearing a face mask, pointing a taser at a citizen and testing the device, as well as enacting a forceful take-down.
This is par for the course when a person chooses to not comply. But should it ever have come to this?
Mayor de Blasio had this to say about the incident:
“We look at every incident carefully . . . When I see something I think is inappropriate, I’m gonna say it.”
Officer Francisco Garcia has been stripped of his gun and badge while an internal investigation is underway regarding the East Village incident.
Councilmember Farah N. Louis, of New York’s 45th district, home to Donni Wright, the man arrested by Officer Garcia, clearly feels that racial bias is involved. Councilmember Louis had this to say, “It is unacceptable for NYPD officers to enforce the rules, however they deem fit, in different zip codes.”
Other politicians representing communities largely comprised of people of color have concurred.
The Mayor further elaborated on COVID-19 enforcement by NYPD:
“I want to caution that any time an officer asks someone to observe social distancing or put on a mask, the response should be to follow the instruction of the officer…Respect goes both ways.”
It’s an awkward position to put the city’s police officers in, and as Patrick Lynch observed, while these same politicians are, “…watering down our laws, releasing real criminals…”
What’s most absurd is this: Mayor de Blasio threatened New Yorkers this weekend with fines and arrest, should they refuse to comply with orders by the police to properly social distance. However, it’s not quite clear what this even means anymore. Is standing six feet apart not sufficient?
At the close of the weekend, only three arrests were made, and dozens of summonses handed out, nearly all for violating social distancing orders.
But aren’t the offenders, and the police officers, all going to be needlessly potentially exposed to Coronavirus pathogens in the process of performing the arrests?
It’s ironic that refusal to socially distance oneself might result in police having to step into a person’s personal space and further violate the social distancing rules for both themselves and the offenders, the very orders at the heart of this matter!
And, what about going to jail? Is a person somehow immune to COVID-19 while incarcerated at their local precinct’s lockup? If the primary reason for these new enforcement efforts is to keep people safe, then the city is failing miserably. It makes little sense.
People are not safer. Nor are they “feeling” safer, rather perceiving that the rights that make our Nation free are now suspended.
In fact, they’re feeling angry, thinking they’re being pushed around. And rightly so.
It seems that there’s an unconscious knowledge that there’s something intrinsically wrong with this entire picture, and it’s a good thing that Patrick Lynch doesn’t want his union members to have any part in this ridiculous fiasco.
Presently, the Staten Islander News Org is waiting for the NYPD DCPI (The Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information) for a response to PBA Pres. Lynch’s statement. The NYPD is presently re-evaluating its social distancing enforcement policies and procedures.)