As of Monday, 19 percent of the NYPD's uniformed workforce—6,974 officers—have called out sick, and more than 2,200 uniformed and civilian employees have tested positive for COVID-19. At least 13 NYPD employees have died from the virus. As the pandemic has worsened, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have called on the NYPD to more rigorously enforce social distancing measures, but it's unclear how seriously the officers themselves take the public health protocol when on patrol.
Nina Kossoff said she was walking her dog in Williamsburg's McCarren Park on Tuesday morning when she spotted a group of officers congregating at the corner of Union and Bayard.
"Wild seeing them like that," Kossoff wrote in an email. "I even watched one cop walk up to the others and say something like, 'You don't look like you're social distancing,' and then they all laughed and continued to congregate."
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo increased the fines for violating the social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000, and expressed frustration that he keeps seeing New Yorkers flout the rules. Photos and videos of Hasidic funerals show hundreds of people crammed together in the street, some subway cars continue to be dangerously overcrowded.
On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio said that the city's enforcement agencies were mostly seeing compliance. "What we're finding consistently is people do respond to the enforcement. If they're told break up, if they're told, spread out, they do it with very, very few exceptions," the mayor said. Moments later, he urged people to call 311 if they see unlawful gatherings.
"Please, everyone – anyone who sees crowding or people are not socially distancing, call 311 right away and we will send enforcement agents immediately," de Blasio said. "And again, we're going to warn people, if they don't follow the warning, they can be fined now and those fines can be very substantial."
According to the Post, the NYPD has received more than 4,000 reports of illegal groups from 311 since March 28th, and issued 21 summonses and made three arrests for failure to adhere to social distancing. Those three arrests were made in Bed-Stuy late last month.
The NYPD has not answered our questions about the total number of summonses and arrests issued for violating social distancing rules, where they occurred, breakdowns by race, or what precautions police officers themselves should be taking while on duty. Last week, Commissioner Dermot Shea pledged that any officers who needed personal protection equipment would get it.
The department's Twitter accounts send mixed messages: here are masked officers maintaining 6 feet of distance to remind all New Yorkers to do the same.
And here is the NYPD Commissioner praising a group of officers for their work while they seemingly ignoring that very same guidance.