Police, social distancing ambassadors to encourage compliance rather than enforcing rules
Racial pain is front and center after the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer this week and as a result, people are protesting across the country.
In New York City, race has come up in many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the NYPD's enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing.
More than 80% of summonses issued for social distancing violations in the city were people of color, according to NYPD data released earlier this week.
The data shows 384 summonses were handed out from March 16 to May 5, 193 were issued to black people and 111 to Hispanics.
"But it wasn't that we had the intent to go out and take this action and certainly not because it was a race issue involved," said First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker.
The data came out after multiple violent arrests were caught on camera and went viral on social media.
One video showed an officer in the East Village taking a bystander to the ground and hitting him.
Tucker says the investigation into this was given priority, and on Friday, the Internal Affairs Bureau said it is recommending discipline against several officers involved. Charges are expected to come as early as next week.
On May 15, the NYPD stopped enforcing regulations for wearing masks. But as the weather gets warmer and more people head outside, Tucker says they will continue enforcing gatherings of 10 or fewer people, as announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As the NYPD takes a step back from enforcing coronavirus-related regulations, social distancing ambassadors will step up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced about 2,000 ambassadors from different agencies and community organizations will be be encouraging compliance.
Tucker, who is serving as co-chair of the Social Distancing Committee under the city's Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity, says about 1,000 school safety agents are helping until all ambassadors are trained.
When it comes to police-community relations in New York City, Tucker admits there is more work to being done.
Tucker says the committee is working on taking the word enforcement out of any drafted guidelines or training for the ambassadors since the goal is to emphasize compliance.