Arrest Numbers Show The NYPD Is Handling Pandemic Enforcement With The Same Biased Enthusiasm It Put Into Stop And Frisk

from the at-least-the-selective-enforcement-is-consistent dept

You can take the stop-and-frisk out of the NYPD, but you can’t remove the biased policing, as the old saying goes. The NYPD may have been forced to stop pushing every minority up against the nearest wall/fence/cop car after a federal court determined this to be a violation of their rights, but they’re apparently continuing to enforce laws very selectively.

On Thursday night, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office became the first prosecutor in the city to release statistics on social-distancing enforcement. In the borough, the police arrested 40 people for social-distancing violations from March 17 through May 4, the district attorney’s office said.

Of those arrested, 35 people were black, four were Hispanic and one was white.

More than a third of the arrests were made in the predominantly black neighborhood of Brownsville. No arrests were made in the more white Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope.

So, this is more than just anecdotal evidence. It’s, you know, evidence evidence. Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists of inconsistent social distancing enforcement is available, if you’re interested in seeing that as well.

This bothers Mayor Bill De Blasio — the man who won the election by promising to be someone other than Mike Bloomberg, who loudly and proudly supported the NYPD’s “right” to harass and detain minorities. But he’s not upset enough. And he’s upset incorrectly. Critics are calling this selective enforcement of pandemic efforts a new stop-and-frisk. De Blasio is only upset about the terminology.

“What happened with stop and frisk was a systematic, oppressive, unconstitutional strategy that created a new problem much bigger than anything it purported to solve,” he said. “This is the farthest thing from that. This is addressing a pandemic. This is addressing the fact that lives are in danger all the time. By definition, our police department needs to be a part of that because safety is what they do.”

That’s just talking around the problem. Yes, the pandemic response isn’t “systematic,” but the ingrained habits that have resulted in minorities being disproportionately targeted by NYPD officers certainly are. And his siding with the NYPD aligns him more with the man he replaced than the public that elected him. Both De Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea claim this enforcement has been deployed “sparingly and fairly.” It’s hard to square “fairly” with the numbers released by the Brooklyn DA.

It also doesn’t square with the total arrest numbers provided by the NYPD.

Citywide, black people make up 68 percent of those arrested on charges of violating social-distancing rules, while Hispanic people make up 24 percent, a deputy police commissioner, Richard Esposito, said late on Thursday night.

Only seven percent of the social distancing arrests citywide involved Caucasians.

The police union spoke up, because of course it did. The head of the PBA made one halfway decent point about bad laws and the problems inherent in enforcing them…

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, declined to comment on Officer Garcia’s actions, but noted he and his colleagues “did not create the poorly conceived social-distancing policy they were sent out to enforce.”

… but followed that up by defending an officer who has been sued seven times and cost the city more than $200,000 in settlements. Officer Francisco X. Garcia was involved in a controversial social distancing arrest in which he punched a man onto the ground and then sat on him as he was handcuffed. Garcia has been removed from duty while this arrest is being investigated, which is apparently the equivalent of hanging this sinless man on the cross.

[Lynch] said City Hall was blaming Officer Garcia for carrying out the policy it had created. “Once again, our leaders are poised to trample a police officer’s rights in order to protect themselves,” he said.

Ah yes. Let’s not “trample” those rights. But the rights of everyone else can be trampled while the NYPD fumbles its way through the pandemic, making minorities pay the price for the social distancing sins of an entire city.

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Comments on “Arrest Numbers Show The NYPD Is Handling Pandemic Enforcement With The Same Biased Enthusiasm It Put Into Stop And Frisk”

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24 Comments
anonymous says:

undue enforcement

Is there any evidence besides the supposed (and not context of location) pictures comparing social distancing in different areas of the community ? In other words what actual proof is there that the actual social distancing was comparable ?
Maybe for reasons other than race (like economic factors as a possible) more people are not practicing social distancing as much in minority (potentially lower economic ) neighborhoods because they can’t due to closer living situations?

In other words, disproportionate impact, while true, may simply be a result
of actual / legitimate enforcement, simply by the fact that it may be occuring more.

You stop to think about that possibility ? Probably not….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In Area A, where many criminals live, work, and victimize people, actual police officers interact with actual criminals. The police officers in this area go from call to call to call.

In Area B, where mostly law-abiding people live and work, police officers don’t interact much with actual criminals. They spend most of their time on traffic violations and responding to minor calls like noise complaints. Police aren’t very busy in these areas.

Why does anyone think it’s a big mystery police spend more time and resources in Area A? Why is this confusing? More to the point, why is it controversial ?

Looking into "biased enforcement" is a waste of time and taxpayer funds … because everyone in that city knows where the Area As and Area Bs are.

Now, if Cushing, Stone, et al happen to notice a racial difference between the people in Area As and Area Bs, that’s their problem, not the police department’s. Reality is frequently uncomfortable.

PS: Only a Techdirt writer could claim De Blasio is too law & order. He’s undoing all the good Guiliani did and is quickly sending NYC back into the Dinkins, Koch, "The Warriors", "Death Wish", WILDING years.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Vermont IP Lawyer (profile) says:

Re: undue enforcement

"anonymous" offers the hypothesis that lower econmic status is leading to less social distancing and that, in consequence, the disparate numbers of enforcement actions by race are not a result of discrimination but just a consequence of disparate numbers of violations. I cannot immediately rule out that possibility but, especially in light of the history of what appears to be discrminatory enforcement actions, I’d want to see a lot more data to be persuaded of that hypothesis. I’ve certainly seen pcitures in the press of large groups of people who were neither African-American nor Hispanic and who appeared to be violating social distancing protocols in Brooklyn but who do not seem to have been subject to any enforcement action. Why might that be?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: undue enforcement

"I’ve certainly seen pcitures in the press of large groups of people who were neither African-American nor Hispanic and who appeared to be violating social distancing protocols in Brooklyn but who do not seem to have been subject to any enforcement action. Why might that be?"

Preponderance of historical evidence suggests that the aforementioned large groups of people were not guilty of Being Brown In Public – unlike African-Americans and Hispanics who the officers of the law often catch in flagrante delicti over that clause.

I submit that lacking an obvious law violation when it comes to caucasian people congregating in numbers the police prefer to observe discretionary caution in making arrests and interfering. The grouping might be accidental, after all.

/s because Poe’s Law still reigns…

Khym Chanur (profile) says:

Maybe for reasons other than race (like economic factors as a possible) more people are not practicing social distancing as much in minority (potentially lower economic ) neighborhoods because they can’t due to closer living situations?

Maybe I’m missing something, but as far as I know "closer living conditions" would refer to either inside of people’s homes or inside of things like apartments. Social distancing laws don’t apply to people living together, so if police are arresting people based on looking in their homes and seeing that the people inside aren’t keeping six feet apart there’s a problem. And for people living in apartment buildings, maybe the apartment buildings for poorer people have hallways that are so narrow that people can’t pass each other without breaking the law, but for that to account for the distance the police would have to be spending their time staking out the hallways of low income apartment buildings waiting for people to pass each other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Maybe I’m missing something, but as far as I know "closer living conditions" would refer to either inside of people’s homes or inside of things like apartments.

It refers to density in general. It’s easy enough to obey social distancing laws when you’ve got a backyard to hang out in and a car you can take to the grocery store (in NYC terms, that can be called "rich"). Things could be tough if a highrise balcony is the only outdoor space available, tougher if you don’t even have that. How can you keep distance while taking a 4-foot-wide hallway to a small elevator to a narrow sidewalk, with all nearby greenspace already occupied?

Khym Chanur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

How can you keep distance while taking a 4-foot-wide hallway to a small elevator

The police would have to be staking out areas inside of apartment buildings to catch that.

to a narrow sidewalk,

I live in a well-to-do area with sidewalks which are narrow enough that two people can’t pass while maintaining six feet of separation. The solution is that one person temporarily goes out onto the street to walk. There’s undoubtedly streets which are too busy to do that, but streets with that much trafic have wider sidewalks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The solution is that one person temporarily goes out onto the street to walk.

Yes, of course; I know the drill, but then, I’m also wealthy enough to have internet access which allows me to keep up with these ever-changing laws and guidelines. People could easily pass too closely by accident, or because they don’t know how to handle it. Those in less dense areas might only see a handful of people while on their daily walk, and don’t even have to think about it.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"It’s easy enough to obey social distancing laws when you’ve got a backyard to hang out in and a car you can take to the grocery store (in NYC terms, that can be called "rich")."

For anyone who hasn’t actually been in NYC it’s easy to understand. Most of the streets in the inner city have fairly narrow and badly maintained sidewalks with the flow of pedestrians being, well, crowded. Population and building density are both very high, except for in the suburbs and the more historically well-to-do neighborhoods, like Greenwich.

And this goes twice over for Little China, Little Italy, Little Israel and all the other areas with the common denominator of trying to pack as much storefront and living space as possible in as little room as possible. I’ve seen plenty of places where you’d be violating social distance if two guys start walking at the opposite ends of the street no matter what they do.

NYC is one of the cities with the highest population density in the US, and Manhattan especially. It’s no wonder it became the pandemic poster boy of america, really.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

With cheerleaders like that...

Garcia was involved in a controversial social distancing arrest in which he punched a man onto the ground and then sat on him as he was handcuffed.

[Lynch] said City Hall was blaming Officer Garcia for carrying out the policy it had created. “Once again, our leaders are poised to trample a police officer’s rights in order to protect themselves,” he said.

Unless I missed something it rather strikes me that they just argued that penalizing someone for punching a person and then sitting on them as you handcuff them is a violation of rights(and not of the person just punched), and while it would not surprise me in the slightest if the NYPD’s union thinks that police have the right to do whatever the hell they want without penalty it does surprise me that they would be honest enough to admit it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: With cheerleaders like that...

I wonder if Officer Garcia didn’t just start punching the guy and handcuffing him for not social distancing. I wonder if the guy tried fighting Officer Garcia. Real mystery there.

If this incident ever becomes a cause célèbre like the Trayvon Martin situation, watch the media magically change the Latino Garcia into one of those awful, evil, no-good blue collar White guys, ala George Zimmerman.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

[Lynch] said City Hall was blaming Officer Garcia for carrying out the policy it had created.

I’m sorry, but where in the policy did it say that officers must punch, sit on, and handcuff people violating the social distancing orders? No one’s blaming Garcia for carrying out the policy but how he did it.

AlexisR200 says:

Unsurprising.

Its impossible to expect any different when people in power are allowed to lie to our collective faces. Sure we might get angry with them at the moment but that hardly ever materializes in either meaningful change nor voting difference. The system is utterly broken at the root with no real way to fix it and we are supposed to rely on the very people that perpetuate the disfunction. If that isn’t a textbook definition of madness baked into the system nothing is.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Unsurprising.

"The system is utterly broken at the root with no real way to fix it and we are supposed to rely on the very people that perpetuate the disfunction."

History begs to differ. There are two ways to fix it. One of which is to have every citizen take a personal interest in the governance of their state and nation.
The other is to hold another tea party in Boston harbor.

Failing either the option of higher proportion of voters actively pushing for positive choices rather than just trying to keep the worst of two evils out of office, or the option of a revolution, what remains is just that long slope downwards as most people no longer care or are allowed their vote while those who do care enough vote based on ignorance, fear or while holding their noses.

"If that isn’t a textbook definition of madness baked into the system nothing is."

…with plenty of prior examples through the history books, from the roman republic downgrading into an empire due to massive ineptitude and malice in their senate ranks, to the dull-witted and inept last days of the weimar republic.

A republic is usually a fairly stable form of government but it does have the achilles heel of being relatively easy to hijack by extremist minorities following a spate of general voter apathy. Which is why direct democracy – with all its flaws – is still the least broken system of government available.

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