New York City police are arresting Blacks at an alarming rate for social distancing violations. (Screen grab of video from ABC7 New York)
New York City police are arresting Blacks at an alarming rate for social distancing violations. (Screen grab of video from ABC7 New York)

From stop-and-frisk tactics to disparities in enforcement of social distancing laws during the coronavirus pandemic, New York City police continue to target Black and brown individuals with seemingly racially motivated policies.

In the past seven weeks, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has arrested and issued summonses for almost 400 people, mostly African Americans and Latinos, for allegedly violating social distancing and other violations, newly released data shows.

The statistics showed that 374 summonses were issued for allegations likely to spread disease and to violate emergency measures.

Of those who received the summonses, 193 are African American, 111 are Hispanic, 51 are white, 14 are Asian, and three are American Indian.

In all, 81 percent of those issued summonses by NYPD were either Black or Latino.

When broken down by the city’s five boroughs — Staten Island made no such arrests or issued any summons — it’s clear that NYPD officers target minorities.

In Brooklyn, there were 206 summonses issued, 121 at 12 social gatherings. In the Bronx, 99 summonses were issued, including 42 at five social gatherings.

The Bronx District Attorney’s Office told CNN they have made 10 arrests and 12 desk appearance tickets related to social distancing, but the office won’t prosecute violations solely for social distancing enforcement.

“Enforcing emergency measures is just one of the many challenges NYPD Officers are facing during the COVID-19 crisis,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said in a statement. “Whenever possible, NYPD should issue summonses instead of making live arrests.”

Nine of the individuals arrested were Black, seven identified as Black Hispanic, and six identified as White Hispanic, according to the district attorney.

“We recognize that this is a difficult time for everyone, and we need to come together to stop the spread of the coronavirus and help save the lives of our fellow New Yorkers,” Clark said.

Two-thirds of the summonses distributed to white people were in NYPD’s Patrol Borough North, which includes the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, according to the data.

The Queens District Attorney’s Office told CNN it had made roughly 20 arrests related to social distancing violations. Of the 20 arrests, 16 of the defendants are Black or Latino, two are Asian, and two are white.

“My office will not be prosecuting social distancing arrests,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz told CNN. “Nobody wants a health crisis to fuel a criminal justice crisis.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said it would not prosecute any social distancing arrests and that it is unaware of any being made so far.

But the office noted there are six people whose arrests on other charges may have followed being stopped for an apparent violation of social distancing rules.

Five of these are African American men, and one is an African American and Hispanic woman, according to CNN.

“When I saw those numbers, I found them to be an indicator that something’s wrong, and we need to fix it. And we will fix it,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

The social distancing arrests and summonses remind many of New York’s controversial stop and frisk law that allowed police officers to stop and search individuals in the city randomly.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report on the city’s stop-and-frisk policy.

An analysis by the ACLU in New York revealed that innocent New Yorkers had been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 5 million times since 2002 and that Black and Latino communities continued to be the overwhelming target of these tactics.

At the height of stop-and-frisk in 2011, over 685,000 people were stopped. Nearly 9 out of 10 New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked have been entirely innocent.

The report found that in 2019, NYPD officers stopped and frisked 13,459 people. A total of 8,867 were innocent (66 percent), while 7,981 were Black (59 percent), 3,869 were Latino (29 percent), and 1,215 were white (9 percent).

“The disturbing images of arrests for social distancing throughout our city serve to erode the process that has been made in enhancing police accountability and strengthening trust in our criminal justice system,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “My office is reviewing allegations of excessive force during recent Brooklyn arrests and will investigate these incidents to determine if disciplinary recommendations or criminal charges are warranted.”

CNN also reported that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams had been critical of social distancing measures since officials announced the enforcement regulations in March.

“This virus has disproportionately claimed thousands of Black and brown bodies, and now, in response, it is Black and brown bodies facing the kind of over-policing never seen in other communities,” Williams said in a statement.

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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