The NYPD is under fire again after a video showed police officers arresting a 22-year-old mother in the subway who they say refused to properly cover her face. Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the confrontation in a tweet, where he also shared the video that sparked the controversy.
Police say they stopped Kaleemah Rozier and her young child inside the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center subway station just before noon on Wednesday and attempted to enforce the new rules to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The video posted to social media by a witness showed that Rozier and her child both had on face masks, but their noses and mouths weren't covered.
"She responded to the officers with vulgar language and repeatedly refused requests to properly wear her face covering over her nose and mouth," the NYPD said.
Rozier can be heard yelling and cursing at the officers in the video as she was being escorted out of the subway station. She and some of the officers were off-camera when she screamed, "Don't touch me."
The video then showed Rozier slapping away one of the officers' hands, and that's when officers moved in, took her to the ground and placed her in handcuffs.
One witness can be heard in the video expressing disapproval: "she got a baby with her — that’s too much."
The NYPD said the officers acted "appropriately and with respect," and that Rozier was only arrested after her behavior warranted action.
De Blasio, who has been extremely vocal about face coverings, reacted to the incident late Wednesday. He said that face coverings are not optional but "no one wants to see an interaction turn into this."
"We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it," said the mayor.
Rozier was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and harassment. The footage of her arrest is now part of a bigger conversation about the racial disparity in social distancing enforcement across the city.
The NYPD's data revealed that the majority of 300 social distancing enforcement-related summonses issued between March 16 and May 5 were to black and Hispanic men.
In Brooklyn where Rozier's arrest occurred, the district attorney's office said the NYPD arrested 40 people for social-distancing violations between March 17 and May 7; 35 were black, 4 were Hispanic and just one was white.