Critics are accusing the NYPD of using social distancing enforcement to target minority communities in the same way they did under the "stop-and-frisk" policy. According to data obtained by CBS2, the force recorded around a million social distancing enforcement contacts between March 16 and May 5, leading to 368 summonses and 120 arrests. Almost 68% of those arrested were black, 24% were Hispanic, and less than 7% were white. In Brooklyn, 35 out of 40 people arrested were black, four were Hispanic, and one was white. Critics have noted that on the same days when police broke up gatherings and made arrests in minority neighborhoods, officers handed out masks to mostly white visitors to city parks and left groups of sunbathers undisturbed, the New York Times reports.
Jennvine Wong, a Cop Accountability Project Attorney at the Legal Aid Society, tells Time that police have been "aggressively enforcing [social distancing] in neighborhoods which are traditionally over-policed to begin with." In one controversial encounter, officers punched two men who were filming them making social distancing arrests. Mayor Bill de Blasio has rejected the stop-and-frisk comparison. He tweeted Thursday night that enforcement is saving lives, but added: "The disparity in the numbers does NOT reflect our values. We HAVE TO do better and we WILL." Advocates—and the NYPD's main union—argue that the police shouldn't be used to enforce social distancing. "We can't police our way out of a pandemic," Wong says. (Read more New York City stories.)