After a mother was arrested in front of her young child, the New York Police Department is under fire again from a dispute with police over her face not being covered properly.
Kaleemah Rozier, 22, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon following a heated confrontation with several NYPD officers, reported WABC. Officers approached Rozier as she walked through the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center MTA station with her young child. The NYPD claims officers addressed Rozier because her face wasn’t covered. Rozier and her child were wearing masks but they were not covering their noses or faces properly.
Kaleemah Rozier was arrested in a New York subway station on Wednesday after she refused repeated orders from police to cover her face and that of her child with their masks properly. Her arrest went viral and intensified concerns about disparities in policing anti-coronavirus measures in New York.
In a video taken by a witness, Rozier is seen shouting and walking out the station as several officers walk behind her. The situation escalated when she yelled “don’t touch me” and snatched her arm away. Seconds later, the officers swarm Rozier and she is cuffed while lying on the ground. Witnesses try to deescalate the situation by reminding the officers her child was watching, but they continued to arrest Rozier.
“She got a baby with her,” said one person. “That’s too much.”
She was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and harassment.
The NYPD insisted officers were polite when they initially spoke to Rozier, but she became argumentative after they asked her to adjust her mask. She was subsequently kicked out of the station but reentered twice through an alternative entrance. The third time resulted in the moment captured on tape.
“She responded to the officers with vulgar language and repeatedly refused requests to properly wear her face covering over her nose and mouth,” the department said.
The department stood by the officers’ treatment of Rozier.
“We are confident that the police officers in this incident acted appropriately and with respect,” the NYPD said. “This individual was arrested only after her behavior toward officers warranted police action.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio was not happy about the outcome of the incident but he stands by his COVID-19 response.
“Face coverings are important to protect everybody — they’re not optional,” he tweeted. “But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this. We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it.”
The video is another example for NYPD critics who argue Black and Hispanic communities are being overpoliced during the pandemic. Between March 16 and May 5, the NYPD issued 374 social distancing summonses, and 300 of them were given to Black and Hispanic people, according to police data. About 125 people have been arrested since then and 83 of them were Black. Hispanic people accounted for 30 arrests and only one white person was taken in.
Less than two weeks before Rozier’s arrest, Donni Wright, a Black man who was observing an arrest was violently arrested by NYPD officer Francisco Garcia. After video of Wright’s arrest went viral, Garcia was placed on modified desk duty.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James addressed the issue of disparities in enforcement of social distancing mandates in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is inherently wrong to aggressively police one group of people yet ignore another group that commits the same infraction,” James said in a statement. “The N.Y.P.D. must better ensure that a New Yorker’s race, color, and neighborhood does not determine how they are patrolled.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea defended his department during a press conference, claiming officers are receiving death threats over 10-second videos.
“I will push back strongly on any notion that this is business as usual for the NYPD, or that this is ‘racist policing,’” Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Wednesday. “I think this could not be anything further from the truth.”
Shea added, “In the last week, we have had death threats on police officers in New York City and their families 10-second videos where the police officers are dealing with individuals that quite frankly, fight, not with the police department, they fight with everyone, they fight with their significant others, they fight when they go to court, they have opened gun cases, they are gang members.”