Legal Aid data shows COVID-19 enforcement impacting mostly minority groups

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The NYPD is investigating an alleged police brutality incident on May 2, 2020 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (Photo via Twitter/@JBlascoNYC)

Social distancing enforcement by NYPD continues to hit black and brown New Yorkers the hardest as data gleaned by the Legal Aid Society shows COVID-19 means harsher enforcement.

The findings of an analysis of 311 complaints, summonses and arrests by NYPD were released Thursday through an interactive map which showed Canarsie, Williamsburg, Brownsville and Soundview led the city in policing measures.

In contrast, the Upper East Side, Chelsea or the Financial District with a majority population of “other” had zero social distancing summonses or arrests between March 28 and May 12, according to the LAS.

“These data strongly suggest that social distancing enforcement looks different based on the neighborhood you live in not because social distancing practices are different, but because the NYPD is much more likely to look the other way in white neighborhoods while they ticket and arrest people for the same behavior in Black and Latino neighborhoods,” Corey Stoughton, Attorney-in-Charge of the Special Litigation Unit with the Criminal Defense Practice at the LAS, said. 

Canarsie led in summonses with 66, while Brownsville had 28 summonses and three arrests. Both have a black and brown majority according to the 2010 census. Williamsburg with a racial/ethnic majority of “other” had 39 summonses and three arrests.

“Alongside the Department’s own data about enforcement and the spate of disturbing videos documenting aggressive enforcement against people of color, there a powerful case exists for shifting away from a law enforcement strategy and reinvesting resources in a public health approach to this pandemic,” Stoughton added.

An additional map depicts 311 social distancing complaints with the highest volumes in the city being Greenpoint with 514, Central Harlem with 389 and Times Square with 246. Respectively, each of these areas had five arrests, one arrest and ten summonses, and one arrest.

A May 2 scuffle between plainclothes officers conducting a stop of two people in the East Village. What began as social distancing enforcement ended in a weed and weapons arrests, but the brutality of the cops involved shocked many who saw the video and led to one officer having his gun and badge taken away.

Shakiem Brunson, 31, of Brooklyn was charged with resisting arrest, criminal possession of a weapon, two counts Disorderly conduct, unlawful possession of marijuana. Ashley Serrano, 22, of Hicksville was charged with resisting arrest, criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of disorderly conduct. Donni Wright, 33, of Manhattan, was charged with assault on a police officer, menacing, resisting arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct.

The incident led to discourse with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Dermot Shea that questioned NYPD’s place in enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 policies.

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