’This could not be further from the truth’: NYPD commissioner blasts accusations of racism in social distancing enforcement

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea
NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea battled back on Wednesday against charges of racism after complaints about selective social distancing enforcement and recent viral videos of violent arrests.
The city’s top cop warned that such talk could generate a backlash putting police officers’ lives in danger — and said cops and their families have already received death threats.
“I would urge caution,” Shea said at Mayor de Blasio’s daily coronavirus briefing. “Accountability is what we must have in this police department. But I will also not have my police department called a racist police department.”
Shea was reacting to criticism and protests stemming from NYPD numbers that revealed that blacks and Hispanics were receiving summonses and were arrested far more often than any other group as cops enforce social distancing and mandatory face coverings in public to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Community leaders and some elected officials have been outraged by recent videos showing rough arrests. One of the videos stemmed from what started as a social distancing enforcement stop in the East Village.
But Shea said such incidents are the exception and not the rule, and that the department is addressing the incidents. Protesters are painting with too broad a brush and such outrage is only making the problem worse, Shea insisted.
“They are human,” Shea said of his officers. “They are not infallible. They make mistakes.”
But the NYPD is not racist, he said.
“I think this could not be anything further from the truth,” She said. “We have a majority minority police department.”

Shea said arrests, police brutality and officer-involved shootings are all near historic lows.

“I don’t think we’re accused of being racist when we’re delivering food to elderly people who are shut up in their apartments, or playing with kids looking for things to do in the summer or when we’re visiting victims of domestic violence or dealing with the mentally ill,” Shea said.

De Blasio backed his police commissioner — and the decision to have cops enforce social distancing.

“There is a history of institutional and instructional racism that exists in this city,” de Blasio said. “We have to root it out in every way we can. But it is also important to recognize the distance we have already traveled and the changes we have made.”

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