Mayor de Blasio said on Friday the city is pulling the NYPD back from mask and social distancing enforcement in all but the most serious cases and the largest events, according to all transcript of his daily press briefing.
De Blasio said more emphasis will be placed on the actions of “social distancing ambassadors,” in the wake of some confrontations between police and residents.
Elected officials from minority communities pointed to large racial disparities among those arrested for mask and social distancing violations.
“So, the reset will be this, we start with the fundamental notion — the NYPD is here to protect lives, to save lives, and where we see the greatest danger to lives in terms of the Coronavirus and the area where we can enforce is around gatherings, particularly large gatherings,” de Blasio said. “So, that’s where we’re going to focus, wanting to give people this clarity. And it’s literally the bigger the gathering, the more that needs to be done by the NYPD to make sure that gathering either never gets started to begin with or is quickly broken up.”
But he said if the city can achieve results in smaller, less chaotic conditions with the ambassadors, that would be ideal.
“Summonses are an available tool and they will be given if people do not disperse, but the goal is to not even get to the point of summons, just to make sure that large gatherings don’t happen,” he said. “Large gatherings inherently come with a breakdown in social distancing and the danger of spreading the disease to a lot of people quickly and that’s what we have to guard against. That will be the focus of the NYPD.”
The mayor said the main effort will be on “educating, on encouraging, on providing free face coverings” done by civilian agencies, houses of worship and community groups.
“[T]he NYPD will be out there as well, but its role will be focused again on the positives, giving out those face coverings, giving out reminders to people, helping people to understand what good social distancing looks like,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said there are now 2,260 social ambassadors.
“[T]hat’s a lot of City employees who will be out there educating, giving out face coverings,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of presence this weekend.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, applauded the move in an email on Friday.
“I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea for resetting mask enforcement which prevents the NYPD from issuing summonses and making arrests for New Yorkers not wearing masks,” Richards said. “I’ve pushed to prohibit NYPD mask enforcement to prevent further exacerbation and division during this pandemic.
“Wearing a mask is not a legal issue, it’s a social one. By transitioning mask outreach and education from officers to community organizations we are demonstrating that we trust our partners to expand the availability and encourage proper use of masks. I urge New Yorkers to continue covering their faces to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have to get this right and I believe we can together, as a city.”