The New York City Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, released a statement Monday arguing that officers should not be tasked with enforcing social distancing ordinances.
“The NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “As the weather heats up & the pandemic continues to unravel our social fabric, police officers should be allowed to focus on our core public safety mission. If we don’t, the city will fall apart before our eyes.”
The city’s police force has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with over 4,000 officers testing positive for the illness and 30 dead over the course of the outbreak. In early April, almost 20 percent of the entire 36,000-strong police force was on sick leave for coronavirus or other illnesses.
Enforcing social distancing in the city is made exceedingly difficult by the city’s density and residents’ reliance on public transport. NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday that police issued about 70 summonses over the weekend for violations of social distancing regulations.
“This is a great experiment we’re living through here,” Shea told reporters at a press conference. “Really never seen this before in a city of 8.6 million people trying to keep everyone inside.”
The NYPD on Saturday arrested three people in a group violating social distancing measures, and video of the altercation was shared in local media. The force also faced criticism after allowing mourners to gather at the funeral of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn. After more mourners gathered than were initially predicted, police were forced to break up the funeral.