Two New York City police officers are likely to face disciplinary action after video showed them forcing a subway rider off a station platform for allegedly confronting the maskless cops about the city’s COVID-19 mask mandate.
Video posted on social media Tuesday showed subway rider Andrew Gilbert being forcefully pushed through an emergency exit by one of the officers, who called the rider “disruptive.” Gilbert told reporters he was grabbed and forced through the gated exit after confronting the officers about the city’s mask mandate.
“We expect that discipline to be meted out,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a press conference Wednesday, though he said the punishment wouldn’t include the possibility of firing or suspension. “There’s no excuse for what I saw in that video.”
Mayor Bill De Blasio, at a separate press conference, faulted the officers for not wearing masks on the subway.
“That’s evident, that’s unacceptable,” the mayor said. “We’ve given this instruction a thousand times. If you’re going to be in law enforcement you actually have to participate in following the law.”
The video, taken by another rider, shows Gilbert’s removal from the subway.
“You are going to use the train station or you’re not,” the male officer in the video is heard saying as Gilbert calls for the female officer’s badge number.
Gilbert told HuffPost he filed a Civilian Complaint Review Board complaint against the officers, but didn’t expect much to happen. He said regularly sees cops defying the mask law during his commutes and has seen maskless officers on two of his four trips since the video confrontation.
“I sincerely hope that the two officers who assaulted me are punished as severely as the law allows, but I have no doubt that this isn’t going to happen, given that even police officers who murder civilians in the street are rarely punished,” Gilbert said in an online message Thursday. “At some point this is going to have to change if we want to live in a society of law and order.”
Masks are required to be worn inside subway stations and on board trains, buses and paratransit vehicles due to the coronavirus pandemic. Violators face $50 fines and ejection. New York law also requires police officers to identify themselves by name, rank, command and badge number to civilians who ask.
Gilbert said his sightings of unmasked police have become so frequent that he’s “taken to recording every maskless officer I see in the system and asking them to follow the law.”
He added: “The majority of the time they either completely ignore me, or they simply put a mask on.”
“At some point this is going to have to change if we want to live in a society of law and order.”
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which oversees complaints against the NYPD, has opened an investigation into Gilbert’s case.
“While I was troubled by the video, we will wait until a full investigation is complete before drawing any conclusions,” the board’s chair, Fred Davie, told HuffPost. “In the meantime, I am hopeful the NYPD will adhere to state mask mandates and remind officers that they are required by law to share their badge number when someone asks.”
New Yorkers have long complained about police officers refusing to mask up, with some sharing their own photos on social media.
“I see some police wear their mask on their chin,” rider Anabel Zamora told The City last month. “So how can they enforce something if they don’t respect the rules themselves?”
“Obviously we have more than a few cops who aren’t complying,” Janno Lieber, acting chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told The New York Times. “Frankly, we’re trying to bring riders back to the system. I don’t want to see them being pushed out of the system by people who are not complying with the rules that the federal government sets.”