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NYPD Says It's Reevaluating Social Distancing Enforcement Policies And Procedures

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD says it is reevaluating its social distancing enforcement policies and procedures.

The move comes after video surfaced of an arrest this weekend.

It wasn't the kind of social distancing enforcement the NYPD envisioned: An East Village slugfest over the weekend that ended with three arrests and a cop on modified duty pending an Internal Affairs probe. But it didn't stop the NYPD from vowing to step up enforcement, and it didn't stop the mayor from announcing a new program to ensure all New Yorkers mask up when they leave their homes.

Call it free masks on steroids, reported CBS2's Marcia Kramer.

Watch: Mayor Bill De Blasio Delivers Coronavirus Briefing 

"We are going to ramp up a plan, and it will take effect starting immediately, to distribute 7.5 million face coverings. Meaning wherever you turn, you're going to be offered a face covering," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

With social distancing the key to returning to normalcy, the mayor said the masks will be given out at public housing complexes, Department of Education grab and go meal sites, parks, grocery stores and other public places.


The mayor even gave a mask demonstration.

"These are reusable as long as they stay dry," he said.

The NYPD sent 1,000 cops into parks and public places over the weekend to enforce social distancing. The mayor apparently was not completely happy.

"We want to see a lot more compliance going forward," he said.

Kramer asked the mayor how social distancing compliance would effect reopening the city.

"I wonder when you reach the point where you're satisfied... you'll be able to let small businesses open?" Kramer asked.

"Unquestionably it will be a necessary piece of it for small businesses," de Blasio said. "We have not put those final plans together. We'll be speaking about that soon. But I do see some good indicators from some other parts of the world.

"Details to come shortly," he added.

As far as enforcement, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said he would evaluate what happened over the weekend.

"We'll look at what went well, what areas do we see crowding," Shea said. "We'll make adjustments both in deployment as well as in the messaging."

Meanwhile, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch released a statement, reading in part, "the NYPD needs to get cops out of the social distancing enforcement business altogether."

"The cowards who run this city have given us nothing but vague guidelines and mixed messages, leaving the cops on the street corners to fend for ourselves," his statement continued. "Nobody has a right to interfere with a police action. But now that the inevitable backlash has arrived, they are once again throwing us under the bus."

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams wants to see NYPD data, saying he feared the enforcement disproportionately targeted communities of color.

"I want to see the data.  You can't have inequities in enforcement and over-policing," Williams said.

The police commissioner said he would make the information public.

On Saturday, police issued 89 summonses for social distancing violations.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As for the East Village arrest video, de Blasio and Shea were asked about it in particular.

"The video was very troubling. What I saw was unacceptable, and obviously discipline was swift by the NYPD," de Blasio said. "But I want to note that that video is more and more of a rarity, what you saw there is more and more of a rarity."

"I was not happy with what I saw. I think we can be better than that, quite frankly," added Shea. "But I think you need to look at it in the context of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of encounters across the city."

Police said officers dispersed a crowd around 5:30 p.m. Saturday on the corner of Avenue D and East 9 Street, but some people refused to comply. As the officers approached, they allegedly spotted a bag of marijuana.

Social media video shows the officers arrest one man, then one officer appears to use a Taser and punch another man to the ground after he tried to intervene.

Police said two men and one woman were taken into custody on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct. The first man was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of marijuana, and the other was charged with assaulting a police officer and menacing.

"This one incident is troubling, but there's been thousands – tens of thousands – of interactions between police officers and civilians over the last weeks that went very well – where the NYPD went and made sure that people were practicing social distancing. When enforcement was necessary, they exercised enforcement in communities all over the city," the mayor said. "By and large, we've seen New Yorkers really abiding by social distancing and the rules we're living with, and the NYPD has been crucial to that – they will remain crucial to that."

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