New York Daily News
Precinct boss gets slap for shunning face mask
The commander of a Brooklyn police precinct where videos showed several cops brawling with civilians over social-distancing rules was admonished by his bosses for failing to wear a mask while dealing with the public, officials said Thursday.
Deputy Inspector John Mastronardi, leader of the 75th Precinct, which covers East New York and Cypress Hills, got the scolding from NYPD Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North.
“I just made sure and clearly communicated to him that he has to wear his mask and lead by example,” Maddrey said. He also ordered Mastronardi to “make sure his officers are wearing masks too for their own safety first and foremost, and for the community.”
Mastronardi was in plain clothes when he and several other officers responded to a call for assistance as cops tried to break up a gathering of eight people on Sutter Ave. and Hemlock St. in East New York on April 28.
A cellphone video of the 6:50 p.m. clash taken by neighborhood resident Adegoke Atunbi shows cops trying to disperse the group.
People in the group asked the cops — including Mastronardi — why some of them weren’t wearing masks. The video shows Mastronardi speaking to some of them. He motioned with his hands as if he was was shooing them away, the video shows.
As tensions grew, cops arrested 31-year-old Jeremiah Arroyo, who police said “squared off and attempted to fight the officers” before turning on Atubni, knocking his phone out of his hands as they threw him against a wall and handcuffed him.
Atubni was taken into custody and given a summons for disorderly conduct and violating social-distancing rules.
Arroyo was charged with menacing a police officer, resisting arrest and obstructing government administration. A second man was also summonsed for disorderly conduct and violating socialdistancing rules, officials said.
Maddrey said Mastronardi and other officers responding to the call for assistance “may not have had the time to put a mask on.”
“The officers have to use their best judgment and sometimes they can’t [put on a mask] because conditions require them to jump out and grab someone or help save someone, help rescue someone,” Maddrey said.
“But our officers have a duty to wear a mask as often as they can. If we are out there telling you that you have to wear a mask, we have to be fair and should be out there wearing a mask.”
So far, none of the officers involved in the April 28 incident face departmental or criminal charges, officials said.
The day after the clash, Mastronardi was photographed in uniform wearing a surgical mask inside the precinct stationhouse as he thanked the Australian Federal Police for providing a pizza lunch for his officers, according to the precinct’s
Atubni’s video was one of several videos that surfaced in recent days that lead police critics to question the NYPD’s approach to enforcing social distancing in minority neighborhoods.
A video recorded over the weekend in East New York shows a man sent tumbling onto the street when he came at one of the NYPD cops making arrests for social distancing near Fountain and Blake Aves.
Another video in the same neighborhood shows a cop punching 20-year-old Stephon Scott while he was lying on the ground after allegedly trying to climb into a parked police cruiser.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said only a handful of cops’ social-distancing interactions with the public have ended in arrests.
But he altered enforcement protocols on Thursday, announcing that he was going to ask civilian NYPD employees to enforce social distancing in city parks, instead of cops, beginning this weekend.
Shea did not identify the civilian employees who will be assigned to the duty, but sources with knowledge of the plan said school safety officers have been chosen for the task.
“They will have to make sure people are, one, wearing masks and, two, keeping a proper social distance from each other,” Shea said of the civilian employees’ mandate in a Twitter video.
“They may even have to regulate the number of people going into parks,” Shea said. “We will probably have people doing things that they are not normally accustomed to doing.”
Across the city, arrests are down 50% during the pandemic, Shea said.
“We have been doing it with an extremely light touch,” he said said of socialdistancing enforcement. “We have been interacting with millions of people and given out only a handful of violations, summonses and arrests, and that’s the way it should be.”