ASTORIA, Queens — A subway rider was so shaken by an encounter with a maskless NYPD officer that he went home instead of heading to work.
Alex Fermin, 23, was in the 46th Street station in Astoria on Saturday morning when he spotted two officers with their masks pulled down around their chins. He snapped a picture, then walked away. Fermin said he’d previously been slammed to the ground by police during protests after the death of George Floyd, so he was concerned about interacting further with the officers.
He heard the officers calling out, but Fermin hoped they were trying to get someone else’s attention.
“In June the NYPD arrested me from behind without any warning,” he said. “I was just terrified. Are they following me? Are they right behind me? Are they close?”
Fermin said that’s when the officers got in his face.
“I realize he wasn’t going to just let me be,” Fermin said.
Under NYPD guidelines, all officers are required to wear face coverings when interacting with members of the public, regardless of vaccination status.
Fermin, who started filming, posted video to Twitter that shows the officer talking to him without his face covered.
“You can’t tell me when to wear my mask,” the officer said in the video.
He pointed to his shield number and told Fermin to talk to the city and the mayor about it. The officer insisted, again, that Fermin couldn’t tell him when to wear a mask.
“You know what the problem is with you guys? Because America is so free,” the officer said. “That’s the problem.”
Fermin’s video shows the officers walk away after that.
Even though he feels uncomfortable over the encounter, Fermin said he’d do it again.
“I felt like it was still the right thing to do. I would still do it today,” he said. “If it’s within our legal rights to do so, I want to do so.”
Fermin, who’s had family impacted by COVID, posted the video to Twitter because he didn’t feel there was anything to be gained by making a formal complaint. He said he’s done that before without getting results.
“The only way I could get some kind of justice or healing was to share it,” he said.
Mask wearing is an MTA regulation, but an agency spokesperson declined to comment on Fermin’s video. He directed PIX11 to the NYPD. The NYPD has not yet responded to a PIX11 request for comment.