Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the conduct of the NYPD officers who instigated a scuffle in the East Village on May 2 over social distancing and “small amount” of weed is unacceptable. However the mayor claimed the rarity of such videos is default proof of the progress the administration has made in terms of healing the divide between communities of color and the police.
While the officer who took a bystander to the group, following up with a series of punches, has been placed on modified duty and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has deferred prosecution of all individuals involved while the investigation is pending, de Blasio was able to find a silver lining.
During a Monday morning press conference, the mayor condemned the action of the NYPD officer in question but said these kinds of incidents between cops and minority groups are on the decline; mostly due to programs such as the Neighborhood Coordination Officers.
“Remember the entire police force has been retrained constantly in de-escalation and neighborhood policing, very, very different approaches to what existed in the past. I’m very confident that these approaches are taking hold in the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “I want to note that that video is more and more of a rarity. We still have a lot to do, unquestionably. But the progress is very clear.”
According to de Blasio, individuals within the force who are unwilling to “conform” to the new strategies, that the NYPD has the capacity to “deal” with them.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said there are no “hard and fast” rules about officers in plainclothes enforcing social distancing and instead pushed attention toward 16 firearms recently taken off the street and other department accomplishments.
De Blasio and Shea did not address the matter that the police account of the situation did not match video footage in that they described it as an attempt to break up a group of people not social distancing turned out to be only two individuals standing next to one another outside of a store.
“I think the de-escalation training that was put in place in years past, and continues, is just yet another tool in the toolbox. I wish it was 100% effective, but that’s unfortunately not the world that we live in,” Shea said. “I would also remind you that de-escalation takes two, unfortunately. There’s two people involved in every encounter. What we’ve seen in the past is when people don’t comply with the police – in the first takedown now, I’m talking about – sometimes those things are not pretty when seen on video.”
When asked if the NYPD really needs to be enforcing social distancing between as few as two people, the mayor said there may have been more to the situation than a simple attempt to break up the duo.
“Clearly there was more going on here, as the commissioner just said, than a simple social distancing enforcement situation,” de Blasio said.
Shea noted that at the beginning of altercation it was only the two, but others began milling about without mask of any kind. Whether or not he was referring to the third individual who was standing well over 30 feet away when the police officer closed the majority of the distance between then, is not known.
Videos show that many of the officers were not wearing face masks either, with only wearing the mask below his nose.
The two videos can be found linked in amNewYork Metro’s earlier coverage here.