NEW YORK CITY — Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would crack down on social distancing following a Hasidic Jewish funeral in Brooklyn.
Since then, police have stepped up enforcement, leading to some controversial arrests.
So should the police officers be the one’s responsible for enforcing the guidelines?
That depends on who you ask. Tuesday, the mayor said that police breaking up gatherings during this pandemic is a good thing.
But others say with tensions running high after those controversial arrests, the NYPD should let communities police social distancing on their own.
Just after 10 p.m. Sunday, police arrested Stephon Scott while trying to disperse a gathering in East New York.
One of the officers punched the 20-year-old while he struggled on the ground. The incident is one of several recent examples where police have had to get physical with New Yorkers as they try to enforce social distancing.
“We understand that everyone is stressed out under these trying times in two months, but we need people to work together more than ever,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during the mayor’s COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.
Prior to the arrest Sunday night, police say Scott walked away from the group and attempted to get in a police car before hitting a sergeant.
Police arrested the the 20-year-old for burglary just last month, but the Brooklyn District Attorney declined to prosecute the case because of the pandemic.
Commissioner Shea said the recent rash of violent arrests have a common denominator of people not complying with police.
“When you start to see some of the patterns emerge here and individuals being repeatedly arrested…it is not shocking to me that they are not complying with the police’s orders at times,” Shea said.
While that arrest is under review, police arrested three more people in Queens Tuesday afternoon.
Officers responded to break up a vigil at the Queensbridge Houses and nearby park, but a spokesperson for the NYPD said the three people arrested refused to comply.
Since March, police have arrested more than 60 people and given out more than 340 summonses related to social distancing.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he asked the mayor to pull back on police enforcement except in extreme scenarios. Adams said the responsibility should fall upon the community, not the police.
“People should not be given summonses,” Adams said. “People should not be given arrests. We don’t want to use it as a modified version of stop and frisk.”
In addition to Adams and several other politicians calling for the NYPD to stop enforcing social distancing guidelines, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch echoed the calls.
Lynch said officers have only been given vague guidelines for enforcement and said the city will “fall apart” if the NYPD keeps enforcing social distancing.