Following troubling viral videos of arrests and concerns about racial disparity in enforcing Covid-19-related social distancing, Mayor Bill De Blasio says he is increasing “ambassadors” in the city from 1,000 to 2,300.
“Enforcement has always been the last resort,” the mayor said at a press conference Sunday.
His comment comes in the wake of the city having come under increased scrutiny thanks to a viral video, of what some have flagged as police brutality, showing NYPD officers arresting several people suspected of breaking social-distancing rules, and also to statistics showing the last few months have seen far more minorities ticketed for breaking the city’s virus-stalling guidelines.
The mayor had previously acknowledged the disparity in enforcement and promised to “fix it”; on Sunday, he announced a plan to increase the number of “social-distancing ambassadors” in the city from 1,000 to 2,300.
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De Blasio says these “ambassadors” will take a “positive approach” by handing out face masks and educating people about the importance at the moment of social distancing and of not gathering in groups.
He stressed these ambassadors will be city employees but not NYPD officers, an assurance likely stemming from concern about the police department’s previous approach to enforcement.
In response to complaints that social distancing guidelines were being unfairly enforced by the NYPD, @NYCMayor announced the City would be increasing the number of ‘social distancing ambassadors from 1,000 to 2,300 #CoronavirusNYC pic.twitter.com/1aILx0Xdh1
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) May 10, 2020
Responding directly to one controversial video of a police officer not wearing any face protection aggressively arresting multiple people for not social distancing and another in which an officer approaches a citizen who was “flexing,” De Blasio said it’s the “wrong approach to policing.”
“That was very alienating to so many people in this city,” he said. “There have been some others that have raised concern. And I think they pull at people in a very real and painful way, and remind us of things that were too common for too long and that were not acceptable.”
New York City previously announced that 1,000 NYPD officers were being dispatched throughout the city to enforce social-distancing measures. De Blasio’s new approach appears to stand in contrast to the hardline stance he’d previously taken in relying mainly on his police department to enforce city guidelines.
After police broke up the funeral of a rabbi who’d died of Covid-19 for having generated a prohibited gathering of a large group last month, De Blasio tweeted that “the time for warnings has passed.”
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
New York City has recorded over 170,000 cases of coronavirus, as well as more than 13,000 deaths from the disease.
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