New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has released hundreds of low-level offenders from city jails, including the notoriously overcrowded Rikers Island, citing the risk of uncontrollable coronavirus contagion. New Yorkers are being told – constantly – to stay home and do their part to “flatten the curve.”
But police don’t seem to have received that message, continuing to arrest and detain people for minor offenses – including violations of social distancing orders – without masks and gloves, even as crime plummets. As more and more officers become infected themselves, intensifying “coronavirus policing” defeats the purpose of the measures the government has taken to stop the spread, packing low-priority “offenders” into jails that are nothing short of petri dishes.ALSO ON RT.COMNew York state sees highest daily jump in Covid-19 deaths, from total of 2,373 to 2,935 – Governor Cuomo
Police claimed they arrested three people in Brooklyn last weekend for failing to maintain “social distancing” after chancing upon a gathering of about 25 people outdoors in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. One of those arrested disputed that narrative, telling the Intercept that she and her boyfriend were standing far from the group when they were roughly apprehended by unmasked, ungloved officers. She claimed she was held in a cell with two dozen others for 36 hours, deprived of any sort of cleaning products beyond a squirt of hand sanitizer, highlighting the absurdity of arresting people for violating social distancing rules only to process them through a jail system that is sluggish and overcrowded.
A man running a speakeasy in south Brooklyn where patrons were found drinking and gambling in defiance of the closure order for non-essential businesses was also arrested on Sunday. However, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced weeks ago that his office would not be prosecuting “low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety” during the epidemic calling into question the wisdom of charging the speakeasy operator with “illegal sale of alcohol” and “promoting gambling” in addition to violating social distancing.
The NYPD can’t be completely faulted for its confusion over the new guidelines. De Blasio threatened repeat social distancing violators with fines of up to $500 earlier this week, and typically for such low-level offenses the next step up from fines would be arrests. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the NYPD to step up its enforcement earlier this week after crowds were seen amassing on Manhattan’s West Side Highway to watch the arrival of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, declaring that the force “has to get more aggressive” but without making clear whether he meant fines and summonses, or actually hauling violators off to jail.