A New York City police union has had enough of the coronavirus social distancing enforcement, and warned city leaders that continued efforts to enforce social distancing could cause the city to "fall apart."
The statement from Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch issued Monday accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of putting officers in a bad position with policies that are unreasonable to enforce.
"The situation is untenable: the NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether," the statement read. "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."
The PBA's statement comes after the release of a video showing police officers beating and violently arresting a bystander in Manhattan during a confrontation that reportedly began as a social distancing enforcement action. One of the men who was arrested, Donni Wright, was hospitalized with back, chest, and rib injuries.
One officer, Francisco Garcia, has been placed on "modified assignment" pending an investigation into his conduct. From the Washington Post:
Just before Wright was arrested, Garcia and other plainclothes officers stopped to investigate a corner where they saw people "walking by, milling about" and not wearing masks, Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said Monday. Garcia and several officers in the video were also not wearing masks during the arrest.
The NYPD has said the police began arresting people because they spotted a bag of marijuana, and that Garcia felt threatened by Wright.
There is no "hard and fast rule" on when officers should aggressively enforce social distancing policies, Shea said. That vagueness increases the likelihood of negative interactions with citizens whose only crime may be standing with a group of people outside or not wearing a mask.
"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," the PBA statement concluded. "If we don't, the city will fall apart before our eyes."