As of Monday morning, riding the New York City subway without a mask is punishable by a fine of $50, courtesy of a new policy state Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week.
The way Cuomo sees it, no rider “has the right to endanger fellow riders” by refusing to wear a mask and flouting the executive order he put into effect in April, which made masks mandatory in New York. But many others see it is as a relatively ineffective way to promote public safety, not to mention one that has the potential to result in authorities disproportionately targeting people of color.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried something similar in late March, when he told the NYPD that its officers could issue $500 fines to anyone violating social distancing protocols, and encouraged New Yorkers to call 311 on their neighbors if they saw large crowds gathering.
Hm, how did that turn out again? Oh yes—even though most of the 311 complaints came from heavily gentrified neighborhoods, like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and the Upper West Side, that wasn’t where the rule was most frequently enforced. In the Bronx, for example, police officers reportedly “took action to fix the problem” more than 40 percent of the time. Around the same moment the measure went into effect, the National Lawyers’ Guild spoke out against relying on police to control the spread of the virus, warning that it would cause harm to marginalized communities.
Roughly six months into the pandemic, hopefully, more of us have learned that as important as it is to wear a mask and abide by social distancing guidance, it is also very important not to be a narc.
But while we’re on the subject, what about all of those maskless cops?