Half of all Brooklynites are white, but 97.5% of the borough's social distancing arrests were of people of color

May 8, 2020
Isaac Scher
Business Insider

In the six weeks since March 17, police officers in Brooklyn have arrested 40 people for violating social-distancing rules.

Thirty-five of the people arrested were black and four Hispanic. Just one is white, even though 49.5% of Brooklyn residents are white, according to the US Census Bureau.

That means that 39 out of 40 — or 97.5% — of the arrests were for people of color.

All 40 cases have been dropped.

The arrest data, which was voluntarily released by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, is consistent with recent concerns that the New York Police Department's social-distancing enforcement overwhelmingly targets communities of color.

"We did an analysis because that's an issue we're concerned about," a spokesperson for Gonzalez told Business Insider, noting that there is no discrete category for social-distancing enforcement, which could make it harder to track. 

"The enforcement should consist of giving masks and sanitizer and so forth. That should be the way this issue is being enforced," the spokesperson added. 

"We cannot police ourselves out of this pandemic," Gonzalez said in a statement.

Last week, NYPD's enforcement practices trended on social media, as people shared photos of disparate enforcement practices.

While some officers handed out masks to white people in Manhattan and Brooklyn, others violently detained people of color. 

"No mask? No problem," the NYPD said in a tweet, along with a photo of an officer distributing masks.

After Gonzalez's office released the data, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's discriminatory policing practices would end.

"The disparity in the numbers does NOT reflect our values. We HAVE TO do better and we WILL," de Blasio tweeted.

Some advocates say the NYPD is not up to the task.

"Public health professionals and community organizations, not the NYPD, should be tasked with respectfully educating New Yorkers about the importance of social distancing, and helping to create new norms that will protect everyone," Monifa Bandele, a leader of Communities United for Police Reform and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, said in a statement to Business Insider. 

"It's time for Mayor de Blasio to step in and remove the NYPD immediately from all social distancing enforcement. Mayor de Blasio must also ensure that there is speedy and meaningful discipline of officers who abuse their authority - including immediate unpaid suspensions and terminations," Bandele added.

Topics: Broken Windows