NEW YORK — NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea responded on Wednesday to a viral social media video of a tense interaction between a maskless NYPD officer and a subway rider in Queens last weekend.
“I saw that video,” Shea said in an interview with the PIX11 Morning News. “I thought it was very inappropriate, on the side of the officer…We’ve gotta be better than that,” he added.
As far as possible discipline for the officer in the video, Shea vowed the department would “take care of that,” and said he had already spoken to Chief of Department Rodney Harrison about it.
Subway rider 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 told PIX11 he snapped a picture, then walked away.
He then heard the officers calling out to him, before getting in his face.
Fermin filmed part of the interaction and posted the video to Twitter, which shows the officer talking to him up close, still without his face covered.
“You can’t tell me when to wear my mask,” the officer said in the video before telling Fermin to talk to the city and the mayor about it.
NYPD officer Powell and his buddies harassing me at 46th St. station after I took a perfectly legal photo of them not adhering to mask guidelines… he said “what are you gonna do about it” and “you know what’s the problem with you guys… it’s because America is so free” pic.twitter.com/FL4tsv2fS3— Alex Fermin (@alex_fermin_) August 28, 2021
Under NYPD guidelines, all officers are required to wear face coverings when interacting with members of the public, regardless of vaccination status.
“There is an expectation,” the police commissioner said Wednesday. “If you’re not wearing a mask when you should, you have to be held accountable, and we’ll take care of that.”
Shea would not go into detail about what kind of disciplinary action might be taken in this or similar situations.
While vaccinated officers on the job are allowed to be maskless when not interacting with the public, vaccine hesitancy has been an issue within the department.
Less than half of uniformed and civilian personnel in the NYPD are vaccinated, according to recent data.
“We know that we’ve been struggling on the vaccination front. That should be cleared up by mid September, because that’s going to be mandatory,” Shea said, referencing the NYPD’s new policy instructing officers to either get the vaccine or mask up at all times while on duty.
Shea also spoke to PIX11 about the ongoing gun violence plaguing the city, mentioning that he believes August shootings were down 30% from August 2020.
The commissioner also spoke on meetings and preparations for security and safety ahead of September 11, which will be twenty years since the terrorist attacks.